Criminal Record Centre; Forensic Science Unit: briefing

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09 November 1999
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

9 November 1999

Documents handed out:
SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory
SAPS Criminal Record Centre

See the attached documents for the briefings presented by Commissioners Du Toit and Morris on the functions, priorities and problems of the Criminal Record Centre (CRC) and the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) respectively.

Summary of discussions
(i) On the Criminal Records Center
The somewhat limited discussion that followed the briefing on the Criminal Records Center focused on related problems faced by the CRC: firstly, the inefficiencies within the CRC; secondly, the ongoing problem of staff shortages and staff turnover.

A major contributory factor to the first of the problems - inefficiency within the CRC - was said to be the manual fingerprinting identification system. Commissioner Du Toit pointed out that the South African Police Service is one of the few police services that continue to do fingerprint identifications manually. This manual system causes blockages within the criminal justice system as a whole (for example, when trials are delayed due to lengthy searches for fingerprints). Inefficiency within the Criminal Records Center not only causes blockages but also failures in the justice system. A good example of the CRC creating failures are the frequent number of cases in which courts judge bail applications without knowledge of previous convictions. As Du Toit pointed out, ascertaining whether the accused has a previous conviction takes weeks under the manual system. By the time the records are available for the court, the bail decision has long since been made. This can obviously be disastrous where, for example, an accused alleged to have attempted to kidnap a child has multiple convictions for sex offences against young girls. Equally serious, are cases where convicted persons are given incorrect sentences because of delays in obtaining records.

Creating an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) has been a priority since the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS), which recognised AFIS as one of the most important ways to reduce blockages and inefficiencies within the justice system. Unfortunately, the system has not yet been implemented due to lack of funds. This was of considerable concern to the Committee. The ongoing problem of fully trained fingerprint experts leaving the CRC to work for private companies was also a concern.

(ii) On the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory
The problem of staff leaving for the better-paying private sector largely dominated the discussion. Recruits, who are required to have a degree in chemistry or biology, are trained for three years at the state's expense, only to then leave to sell their services in the United States or Europe. They also are being scooped up by the large commercial organisations (such as banks), who are increasingly recruiting in-house experts to solve problems of fraud, theft and other corporate related crimes.

Commissioner Morris stated that it is not unusual for them to be paid three times the salary that they would receive working for the state. The state, he said, could only afford to pay new recruits to the Forensic Science Laboratory around R48 000 per annum. This is clearly inadequate for highly skilled graduates with degrees in bio-chemistry and forensic science, and goes a long way to explaining why his department is so short of staff.

Chairperson George argued that lack of adequate salary, although a serious problem, should not be an excuse. Commissioner Du Toit replied that there was simply nothing that they could do, as budgetary constraints obviously do not allow the CRC and the FSL to compete with private companies. Mr Solomon (ANC), asked whether there were any legal mechanisms in place to prevent people training themselves at the state's expense only to work for foreign governments and private companies. Commissioner Fivaz replied that there is no t- so far as he is aware- but that he would look into it. The only exception is where the trainee has been given a loan by the state, in which case the state can demand that he/she perform a certain number of years service.

Chairperson George also asked Commissioner Morris whether - since the Committee's visit to the Lab in Pretoria in 1995 - any improvements had been made in representivity for non-whites. Morris replied, again, that the problem was a financial one. They had tried but simply could not attract enough of them to ensure sufficient representivity. At the moment there are 250 vacant posts, getting on for 55% of the total number of staff. The problem, he argues, is not one of race but of lack of money.

Commissioner Fivaz added that the problem of state employees leaving for the more lucrative private sector is not unique to the CRC and the FSL, but plagued the SAPS as a whole. But, he suggested, private sector influence was not all bad. The SAPS (and the justice system as a whole) is increasingly forming partnerships with the private sector. This can result in private sector employees being seconded to work with the state in solving crime.

On the whole, however, the Committee considered that the brain-drain to the private sector was of serious concern, and that consideration should be given as to whether legislation is needed. There should be some way in which the state received an equivalent amount of service for the training they had given.

Appendix 1:

SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory



Forensic science is a broad, interdisciplinary field in which the natural sciences are employed to analyse and evaluate physical evidence in matters of the law. There is a story encoded in the totality of the physical evidence. However, the evidence must be skilfully interrogated for the story to be revealed!

The probative and investigative value of properly collected and scientifically examined physical evidence by the forensic laboratory cannot be over emphasised. It plays a critical role in our criminal justice system. As technology improves, forensic laboratory personnel are increasingly able to provide more information with ever smaller amounts of trace evidence. To fulfill our vision to have tangible impact on crime through effective scientific analysis of physical evidence, the laboratories' procedures and methods must keep pace with changing and evolving technology.

Constitution of the Laboratory

The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) of the South African Police Service was formed on 15 January 1971, with the Biology, Chemistry and Electronics Units. A new building complex, the L P Neethling Building, was occupied in March 1987 when the Ballistics and Questioned documents Units, which before this had fallen under the SA Criminal Bureau, were amalgamated with the Forensic Science Laboratory which has since housed all the above units under one roof.

An Objective Scientific Service

The activities of the Forensic Science Laboratory concern the application of scientific principles, methods and techniques to the process of investigation. In an objective search for the truth, the intention is not only to bring offenders of the law to justice but also to protect innocent people against prosecution. This service is in addition to the conventional methods of crime investigation. The activities include the reconstruction of scenes of crime and the analysis of physical evidence in order to arrive at a meaningful conclusion.

The Forensic Science Laboratories in South Africa currently consist of the following Units, respectively:














Western Cape





Eastern Cape
















This Unit is responsible for examining firearm and tool marks. Every firearm has its own particular characteristics which are carried over onto the fired cartridge case and the fired bullet during the firing process. Etching processes are applied to restore numbers which have been obliterated on metal objects (e.g. firearms; engine blocks; etc.)

The majority of examinations conducted by the Ballistics Unit fall into three main categories, namely:

  • Internal forensic ballistics
  • External forensic ballistics
  • Terminal forensic ballistics</TBODY>

Internal Forensic Ballistics is the study of the events occurring inside a firearm from the moment the firing pin strikes the primer of the cartridge until the bullet leaves the barrel. It also includes how the mechanism of the firearm and the ammunition work. The examinations that are conducted, are as follows: <TBODY>

  • The examination, particularly in cases of alleged accidental discharge, of firearms and their mechanism to determine possible defects.
  • Examination of homemade instruments and miscellaneous firearms to determine whether or not they comply with the description of "firearm" as defined in Section 1 of Act 75 of 1969.
  • Determining of calibre and type of ammunition.
  • Identification of components of "small-arm" ammunition.
  • Determining of the possible type of weapon from which a suspect bullet or cartridge case was fired.
  • Microscopic comparison of bullets fired as well as cartridge cases, to determine whether or not they were fired from the same firearm, particularly in cases in which it is suspected that one of the firearms was used at more than one crime scene.
  • The individualisation of fired bullets and cartridge cases to determine whether or not a particular suspect firearm had been used.

External Forensic Ballistics is the study of the motion of projectiles after leaving the barrel of the firearm. The examinations that are conducted are the reconstruction of trajectories, particularly in cases in which it is necessary to determine the possibility of a bullet or pellets hitting a target from a certain firing point, or a target hitting pellets from a certain point. This type of examination usually coincides with terminal ballistics.

Terminal Ballistics is the study of the projectile's impact on the target, mostly the study of wound ballistics. The examinations that are conducted, are the determination the distance between firing point and target (eg contact or other close range shots and reconstruction of trajectory angles at shooting scenes, particularly in cases in which the direction, or point of fire, is disputed.)

It also includes the:

  • Examination of ricochet possibilities
  • Determination of the type of calibre or projectile
  • Determination of the entrance and exit of a projectile

Miscellaneous Examinations

This aspect usually entails a combination of examinations which may fall under any of the above categories. The type of examination and extent of reconstruction depends on the particular circumstances of each crime scene. In fatal cases the ballistics examination usually includes attending the autopsy and considering reports compiled by the pathologists.

The miscellaneous examinations also include:

  • Examination and reconstruction
  • Identification of rhino horn and elephant tusks
  • Physical matching of animal hides, horns and ears
  • The identification of branding marks on livestock

Training & Recruiting

This unit recruits mainly permanent members within the South African Police Service. These members have already undergone basic training at one of the Training Colleges of the South African Police Service. Civilians are also appointed as administration clerks.

After a member has been recruited for the Ballistics Unit, he/she will be subjected to a three- year established and in-house training programme.

Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS)

IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) was developed by Forensic Technology of Montreal , Canada to assist crime laboratories with their ever increasing case load of firearm related crimes. IBIS incorporates BULLETPROOF®, a bullet analyzing module and BRASSCATCHERÔ , a cartridge case analysing module into one fully integrated system.

IBIS photographs portions of the surface (land engraved areas) of a bullet and the primer/firing pin area of fired cartridge cases using state of the art optical and electronic technology. These images are then stored in databases and sophisticated algorithms are used to correlate the images against each other using filters such as caliber, rifling specifications, date of crime and date of entry. These correlations produce lists of possible matches with the highest scoring correlations at the top of the list. An examiner can then call up the images and compare them side by side on a monitor. If a possible match is found during this screening process, the actual evidence to test or evidence to evidence is then compared by a Firearms Examiner on their comparison microscope for final determination.

The Ballistics Unit of the FSL received both the BULLETPROOF® and BRASSCATCHERÔ modules of IBIS in September 1997, and entry of evidence began immediately. All unidentified evidence bullets of predetermined calibers that possessed at least one clear land impression and with sufficient microscopic detail to effect a match were entered. Test bullets fired from evidence guns were screened by examiners to ascertain if they fit the above criteria and the best test bullet was entered into the system.

To date there were 57 101 entries in the IBIS database. 1 266 confirmed hits have been made. The first national hit in the world occurred in South Africa when cases were linked between two remote stations (Pretoria and Port Elizabeth).



Total Acquisitions on Database

Total Acquisitions per Month

Hits to Date

Number of Firearm Unit Cases


27 570

1 088




15 374

1 324



Eastern Cape

6 785




Western Cape

7 372





57 101

3 239

1 266

1 950



The Biology Unit is responsible for the analyses of evidentiary material of biological origin, e.g. body fluids, human tissue and hair. The purpose of forensic biological analyses is to either implicate a person's (suspect's) involvement in a crime or connection to a crime scene, or to exclude his or her involvement on grounds of evidence extracted from biological material submitted as evidence material. Physical evidence of biological origin plays an important role in criminal acts, especially in cases such as murder, manslaughter, rape, assault and robbery. Serological, immunological, biochemical as well as microscopic analyses are performed on exhibits of biological origin in an attempt to determine the origin of the material. By performing forensic analyses on evidentiary material in criminal cases, the Biology Unit of the Forensic Science Laboratory serves the community by proving a suspect's involvement with a crime while, the innocent is protected from prosecution by means of elimination.


Trichology is the scientific study of the structure, function and diseases of hair. The average human loses approximately 100 hairs from all over his or her body per day. It follows therefore, that hair may be found at crime scenes at which murder, rape, robbery, assault, illegal hunting, etc. have taken place. Microscopically observed structural similarities are used to compare crime samples (hair found on the scenes of crime) to control or reference, hair samples.

Human hair can be differentiated from animal hair and can provide identifying clues about its owner. A single hair may reveal certain facts, for example, the race, the area of the body from where it originates, the use of dye or bleach on the hair, the manner in which the hair was removed (ie by cutting, plucking or by natural loss). It is possible to determine the species of origin of animal hair in, for example, cases of stock theft.

Body Fluids and Human Tissue

Forensic biology also entails the scientific analyses of genetic markers in human tissue, blood and body fluids to determine the origin thereof, when compared to control or reference samples. Genetic markers are unchangeable, individualizing characteristics transferred from parents to children by inheritance. In recent years much progress in the field of forensic biology has resulted from the explosion of knowledge and information about genetic markers in human blood and body fluids.

Genetic marker typing has two principle forensic biological applications:

  • In cases involving known or suspected biological material (blood or body fluids, human tissue and hair) transfers, it is used to assist in association or dissociation of bloodstains or body fluid transfers with possible depositors.
  • It is employed in cases of disputed affiliation (disputed paternity) to include or exclude possible parenthood or other affiliation.</TBODY>
  • The major aspects of a forensic investigation are identification, individualization an reconstruction. Forensic biological examinations in cases involving biological material also follow this pattern.

Forensic DNA Analyses

The aim of DNA-analyses is to comparatively analyse genetic information found in biological material of human origin. Deoxyribonucleic acid(DNA) is the chemical molecule which carries genetically inherited information. Each individual, with the exception of identical twins, has his or her own specific DNA composition. In the case of identical twins, both twin's DNA produces the same result. Depending on the quality and quantity of the relevant exhibits consisting of or containing biological evidentiary material, it could be possible to compile a "DNA profile" of exhibit to compared with a reference sample's "DNA profile". The forensic DNA expert can isolate DNA from any of the following biological samples: blood, tissue (muscle), bone (marrow), teeth (pulp) and hair roots. Examples of criminal cases in which DNA analyses can be used with great success are murder, rape, concealment of birth and disputed parentage, to name but a few.

Types of DNA Analyses

The most frequently used DNA techniques used in forensic biological analyses are based on the Polymerise Chain Reaction. Advantages of PCR are the small sample needed for analysis, as well as the fact that the technique can be applied to degraded biological material. Thus, even old samples may be analysed successfully. With PCR's high power of discrimination it is possible to connect a suspect to a crime scene or positively exclude such a person. When an adequate biological sample, both as far as quality is concerned, is available, it is possible to utilize another DNA technique, formerly erroneously known as DNA fingerprinting. In South Africa where this technique is referred to as multi locus DNA profiling, it finds its main application in the determination of questioned parentage.

Training & Recruiting

This Unit recruits candidates in possession of a B.Sc degree or equivalent qualification as minimum requirement, majoring in one of the following subject:

  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Botany
  • Zoology
  • Physiology
  • Genetics</TBODY>

Police College training is not required and in-house training is provided in terms of the Unit's policy by the Unit itself.

DNA Criminal Intelligence Database (DCID)

Current usage of DNA in the SAPS


The SAPS FSL is presently using DNA typing technology for casework investigation. This investigation is unfortunately limited in efficiency without a DCID laboratory. The benefit of linking suspects to crimes is reduced to only those which are directly investigated. Presently, if no suspects can be identified with traditional analysis procedures, DNA analysis within a case has no value. Hence unsolved earlier offences where DNA evidence had been found but not linked with the offender, can now be cleared up if DNA samples from a suspect in connection with a later offence match the evidence found at a previous scene of crime.

The DCID will considerably reduce the time required by case investigations. This will allow the SAPS to provide a more efficient service with a totally objective method to establish suspect identification. In addition to providing an efficient service nationally, a DCID will also ensure that the SAPS can facilitate scientific cross-border interanational crime prevention.






Legislative changes to the Criminal Procedure Act have been requested in order to give effect to the DCID:

  • to obtain reference blood samples from arrested persons and convicted felons;
  • the release of crime information on DNA profiles in different casework or suspects linked by DNA.






Direct results of the DCID will be:

  • objectivity
  • accuracy
  • multi-disciplinary team work
  • improved quality of the Criminal Justice System
  • savings
  • money
  • man-power
  • technology needed already in use
  • fewer cases will be remanded
  • court process time
  • lower legal and witness costs
  • lives — by expediting the apprehension of criminals (e.g. serial killers)







The Chemistry Unit undertakes analyses in each of the following fields:

  • Drug analyses (drug and medicines)
  • X-ray analyses (gunshot residue, glass, paint, etc.)
  • Precious metals (gold, platinum group metals, soils and metallurgy)
  • Fire and explosion investigations (arson and explosions)
  • Diverse Analyses
  • Electronic Investigations
  • Polygraph Examinations

A variety of organic and inorganic matter or substances is analysed at the Chemistry Unit. Organic matter can be defined as carbonaceous compounds while inorganic matter can be classified as that which is not organic. Typical examples of organic matter are plastics, synthetic fibres, fuels, vegetable medicines/poisons, grass, aspirin and cocaine. Inorganic matter, on the other hand, includes soil, gold, metals and primer residue. Some classes of compounds of both organic or inorganic compounds. An example of this is explosive : ammonium nitrate (inorganic) and TNT (organic).

Experts attached to this Unit answer mostly "what" questions : ie what is identified. Control samples are not always necessary in these cases. Yet there are analyses directed towards individualisation, where it is indicated that two materials do or do not have the same origin. Examples of these are drugs, paints, soil, glass and fibres (threads from clothing).

Physical Match

When two or more pieces of a broken object physically fit together to form a unit, it can be said that they form a physical match and that they are indeed part of the same object. Physical matches therefor play an important role in determining the origin of an object. Physical matches eliminate the necessity of chemical analysis. Examples of substances with which it is possible to conduct physical matches are pieces of broken glass, torn paper tape or clothing, or any other object that can be broken.


Paint is used as a protective and decorative coating on many surfaces. Great variations in colour, formulation and use of paint make it a physical exhibit with decisive value as evidence. It thus plays an important role in cases such as hit and run, vehicle collisions and burglaries in which force was used to enter premises or a safe. In order to have a well-finished painted product it is necessary to coat it with several different layers of paint. This allows the analyst to compare the colour, texture, thickness and composition of each layer and by doing this, to obtain a more decisive conclusion rather than just by examining the properties of the outer layer.


What is soil? There is no clear cut definition, but in forensic science soil can be classified as surface material — both natural and artificial. Owing to their nature, some soils are readily transferable to items of clothing, motor vehicles, etc. This transferred soil can be of great value as evidence. In the analysis of soils the colour is of great importance, owing to the great variety of soil colours. Particle size, mineralogy and organic composition are also of great importance in these cases. It is very important to note the method used in sampling can very well determine the success or failure of the investigation.

The value of soil as evidence, however, is affected by the variation in the soil type at the scene of a crime. This can be seen by the following : If the soil type changes dramatically as one proceeds from the scene of the crime, then the soil can have great value in linking a person to a particular area, but if the soil is the same everywhere it has little value as evidence.

Vehicle Lights

In some vehicle collisions it must be determined whether the lights (headlights, brake lights, tail lights, and/or indicator lights) of the vehicle concerned were switched on during the accident. Examination of the filaments concerned can answer this question. However, it is necessary that the lamp or filament must not undergo any further damage after the event since, this can negatively influence the results of the investigation.


Glass is often found on clothing and can have useful value as evidence. When a pane is shattered, the glass fragments usually scatter backwards and end up on the clothing of the burglar. These glass fragments are usually flat or shell-shaped and do not easily detach from clothing. Glass fragments can sometimes be found on or become embedded in the object used to break the pane. These objects can undergo scrutiny for the presence of glass. The most important factor in cases involving glass is whether or not a physical fit can be made. For a physical fit the pieces of glass must be of a reasonable size. Glass can also be analysed chemically for a match.


This field focuses on the characteristics of metal and other materials such as ceramics and the implications on the investigation. It includes the following:

  • Determination of the cause of failure of materials by analysing the surface of the fracture
  • Analyses of metals for conformation to specification
  • Analyses of the surface finish of a material
  • Chemical analyses and chemical profiling of metals
  • Identification of various types of materials</TBODY>


Only South African coins are investigated in order to establish their authenticity. If a coin has a high lustre (shines) and very detailed relief, then it most likely is an authentic proof coin. If, however, there is any doubt, all coins and notes must be forwarded to the laboratory. The physical properties of a coin (mass, size, etc) and chemical properties (eg composition) are used to determine whether or not it is authentic.

Jewellery and Precious Stones

Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, etc can be examined to determine whether or not they are genuine.

Precious Metals

The trade and possession of unwrought precious metals is restricted in terms of the Mining and Rights Act, 1967 (Act No 20 of 1967). In the Act unwrought precious metal is described as "unmanufactured precious metal in the form of bars, ingots, buttons, wire, plate, granules or in solution or in any other form whatsoever, or any article or substance consisting of or containing precious metal which, although manufactured, is not as such an article of commerce or a work of art or an article of archaeological interest". Precious metals are ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver, osmium, iridium, platinum and gold. Any article or material that falls within the above description, such as ores and soils, can be investigated by the Forensic Science Laboratory in order to determine the purity and value thereof. Chemical profiling are also carried out on precious metals.

Drug Analysis

This components assists the South African Narcotics Bureau in the investigation of drug-related criminal offenses. The Forensic Science Laboratory renders assistance by:

  • Analysing substances (eg powders, pills, liquids) suspected of being drugs. The active ingredient in the unknown substance is identified and compared with the lists of drugs prohibited or controlled by the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act and the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.
  • The profiling of drugs in order to
  • do drug sample comparison
  • link drugs to a specific source
  • Technical assistance to SANAB regarding cases in which drugs are illegally manufactured in clandestine laboratories.
  • Technical assistance to SANAB and other legislative bodies regarding the classification and prohibition of dependence-forming substances.

Common drugs routinely analysed, include:

  • Opium derivatives (morphine, heroin)
  • Cocaine
  • LSD
  • Methaqualone
  • Cannabis sativa and products thereof ("dagga", "hashish")
  • Amphetamine and related compounds
  • Various medicines controlled by the Medicines and Related Substances Control (Act 101/65)

Investigations of Fires and Explosions

This component assists in the investigations of explosions by:

  • Analysing exhibit material after an explosion to determine what type of explosive was used
  • Rendering technical assistance to the Bomb Disposal Unit in evaluating home-built explosive devices and explosives.</TBODY>

In the event of suspected arson expert assistance is rendered by:

  • Attending fire scenes and performing a detailed physical appraisal of the scene
  • Analysing exhibit material for traces of liquid fire accelerant (eg petrol, paraffin)
  • Issuing a detailed report based on the physical and chemical investigation on the results and conclusion of the fire investigation.

Assistance is also rendered in investigations concerning shooting by analysing exhibit material for traces of gun propellant which is indicative of close range shooting.

Diverse Analysis

As the name suggests, this includes any chemical analysis not performed by any other components in the Forensic Science Laboratory. Routine analysis include:

  • Alcohol quantity in liquor (eg illegal liquor sales, fraud as a result of watered-down liquor). Blood-alcohol is analyzed by the laboratories of the Department of Health and Population Development.
  • Ink comparisons (eg Fraudulent documents)
  • Toxicology cases, in which a criminal charge has been laid as a result of suspected poisoning of people, animals (eg livestock) or plats (eg crops). Poisons analysed will include:
  • Commercial pesticides and herbicides
  • Metal poisons (eg lead, arsenic, mercury)
  • Plant poisons (eg injudicious use of herbal and traditional medicines)

Exhibit material analysed include:

  • Food, fodder and liquids (eg drinking water)
  • Plant and medicinal material
  • Content of stomach and crop
  • Hair and nails of animals

Organs, blood and urine are analysed by the Laboratories of the Department of Health

  • Any Diverse chemical analysis; including brake fluid, oils, glues and adhesives, dyes, perfumes etc.

Training & Recruiting

The chemistry recruits candidates with a professional degree in:

  • Chemistry
  • Pharmacy
  • Biochemistry
  • Metallurgy
  • Chemical Engineering, Chemistry Geology
  • or a National Diploma in Analytical Chemistry or Metallurgy or Geology.

Police College training is not required and extensive in-house training is provided by the unit.

National Drug Intelligence Database (NDID)

The Chemistry Unit of the FSL is in the process of establishing a National Drug Intelligence Database (NDID). The goal of the NDID is to provide comprehensive and inclusive operational and management information, as well as strategic intelligence to both the Forensic Science Laboratory and its clients.



Although not widely publicized, no other instrument of crime is so prevalent in our society as the document. The monetary value lost in crimes committed with documents runs into billions of rands annually and actually has a greater impact on our nation's economy than most other, more publicized crimes. The Questioned Document Unit examines documents in which there are points at issue. The nature of these examinations are widely disparate - from the individualization of writing with spray paint on a wall to the identification of the original amount on a forged cheque. The scientific examination of document for the benefit of an investigation officer or a court of law seeking what evidence is present in the document.

Handwriting Individualization

Each writer has a unique style of writing which creates a direct connection between the writer and his writing. By comparing the individual writing characteristics present in the handwriting on a disputed document with those in the specimen writing of a specific person, it can be determined whether that person is the author of the disputed document. If this is the case, there is an unambiguous connection between the person and the disputed writing. Such a conclusion is due to the fact that no two persons write identically. The comparison samples needed before individualization can take place are known as specimen writing. There are two types, namely collected specimen and requested specimen and the responsibility lies with the investigating officer to collect sufficient and appropriate material. Collected specimen writing consists of writing produced under normal circumstances, such as letters, reports, application forms and cheques written by the suspect. Before collected specimen writing can be used as evidence in court, it has to be proven to have been written by the person concerned. Requested specimen writing consists of writing done at the request and in the presence of the investigating officer.

Simulating and Tracing of Writing

Two methods can be applied to reproduce the writing characteristics of another person. These methods are known as simulated and traced forgery. Simulated writing is where the forger makes a free hand copy of another person's handwriting or signature. This is the method most frequently employed by skilled forgers as a well executed simulation can be of excellent quality. A less skilful forger would often employ the method of tracing writing or a signature where the document to be forged is place over a genuine example, placed over a powerful light source and the original writing traced over onto the forgery. Such writing can be examined to determine whether or not it is in fact written or signed by the person purporting to be the author.


Since most official documents are typewritten, typewriting examination is a very important part of the document examiner's work. As in the case of handwriting, typewriting can also be individualized. It is, however, not to determine who the operator of a machine is, but whether a document can be individualized as the product of a specific machine. Important points have to be borne in mind when the comparison of typewriting is required.

The individualizing of typewriting is based on the fact that each typewriter has unique characteristics obtained either during the manufacturing process or through wear and tear during use. In the typebar machine, the typeface and the typewriter are regarded as one. In single element models, whether type ball or type wheel forms, both a machine and interchangeable element components are involved in the typed material, so that what is found is a combination of the two.

Furthermore information on used carbon ribbons can be deciphered in order to determine whether the specific ribbon was used in the compilation of a certain document. The discovery of the contents of a questioned letter on the ribbon provides proof of its use.

Other Contributions Rendered by the Unit

Several other contributions with regard to the examination of questioned documents are rendered by the Unit.

Examination of Forged Documents

Erasure of Writing

Erasure of handwriting, typewriting, or printing is one of the ways in which changes are effected on documents. Information on documents can be erased either through the application of chemicals or mechanical methods (such as abrasion techniques), where after the subsequent addition of new data or information will make the document fraudulent.

Obliteration of Writing

Changes on documents can be effected by deleting or obliterating handwriting, typewriting or printing with pencil, pen or opaque mediums such as correcting fluid. Successful restoration or deciphering of obliterated information is possible but depends mainly on the original writing medium and the material used for obliterating.

Addition, Insertion and Overwriting on Documents

Alterations by addition, insertion or overwriting of a part or whole of a figure, letter, word, sentence, page, etc. may be effected on documents. Such alterations can be detected and the original wording of the document can be restored.

Base Material (Paper)

The material used as a base for the composition of a document, such as paper or cardboard, can be examined to reveal whether it is of a particular type or manufacture that may be indicative of its origin. This is done by examining the document for the presence of watermarks and other manufacturing or quality control marks. An estimation of age can also be given by ascertaining whether the paper was actually manufactured or available at a certain time or place.

Ink and other Mediums used on Documents

The use of various inks or mediums on one or different documents can be distinguished. Thus it can be determined whether additions or changes were made by using another ink or medium. Age determination of ink or other mediums is very limited and a meaningful indication of age can seldom be given.

Other Apparatus and Equipment

Rubber or metal stamps, printing presses, sealing-wax apparatus, punch card machines, photocopiers, mechanical calculators, etc. can have exceptional individual characteristics that are transferred onto documents. It is helpful to investigating officers to determine whether documents were prepared by the same type of machine or, more importantly, to be able to identify a specific machine.


When two or more sheets of paper lie on top of each other and writing occurs on the top sheet, indentations of the writing will be found on the second and often the following sheets. The extent of the indentations depends on the writing instrument and the pressure applied during the writing process. Through the application of various techniques such indentations can be made legible.

Damaged Documents

Documents that are damaged by being scorched, burnt, soiled, or perforated can be partially or completely restored. The purpose of the restoration is twofold : to determine the message on the damaged document and/or physically to piece the damaged document together and thus declare the document a whole.

Counterfeit Banknotes

South African banknotes as well as USA dollar notes are examined to establish authenticity or forgery. Printers' plates and colour copiers possibly used in the manufacture of banknotes can also be examined and linked to specific counterfeit notes.

Training and Recruiting

This unit recruits permanent members within the South African Police Service to be trained as document experts. These members have already undergone basic training at one of the Training Colleges of the South African Police Service.

After a member has been recruited for the Questioned Document Unit, he/she will be subjected to an extensive in-house training programme for the period of three years.


The Questioned Document Unit has the capacity to examine a wide range of document-related cases in which the question of authenticity may arise. Though identification and individualization processes, many of these questions can be answered scientifically. In any science there are areas of uncertainty and in every analytical method, the limitations must be appreciated. The document examiner, using the scientific principles of observation and deduction, applying the appropriate tests, and comparing the results with the background corpus of knowledge on the subject, can provide answers to the many questions asked by the investigating officer and provide invaluable evidence on which a court of law may reach a decision.


Summary of operational Units, and relevant Sections, with types of cases analysed, and number of cases analysed during 1998.


Unit / Section



Cases / Year




Post mortem blood alcohol (future); poisonings; ODs; drugs; medicines (incl. muti)


Drug Analysis

PTA: 11

WC: 9

Mandrax (methaqualone); Cannabis; cocaine; amphetamines



X-Ray Analysis


Primer Residue

Filaments; ivory

4 800


Trace & Diverse Analysis


Paint; fibres; explosives; physical matches; diverse analyses


Fire Investigation

4 (analysts)

6 (investigators)

Analyse exhibit material

Determine origin & cause of fire


Precious Metals & Metallurgy


PM: Gold valuations

M: Mechanical failures

PM: 1 500

M: 300



Sound & video enhancement, electronic investigations




Truth verification





PTA: 29 (DNA)


PTA: 1 (Hair)

WC: 9 (DNA)

DNA Typing

n 15 000 = sexual assault;

n 10 000 = Child Protection Cases

Hair Analysis

DNA: 22 550


Hair: 1 900

DNA: 6 500




PTA: 36

Examination of firearm and tool marks

8 650

KZN: 17

5 420

EC 8

1 640

WC 11

2 480




PTA: 15

WC: 2

RSA banknotes; US Dollars; fraud (cheque); suicide notes; police corruption

6 500



Key: PTA - FSL Pretoria; WC - FSL Western Cape (Delft / Macassar); KZN - FSL KwaZulu-Natal (Amanzimtoti); EC - FSL Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth)

Accreditation, Quality Assurance and Training



Accreditation in a given discipline refers to endorsement and validation of practices and procedures, and acknowledgment of compliance with certain set standards recognised by industry authorities and peers alike. However, if the goal of the accreditation process merely boils down to achieving this recognition without a conscious addressing of organizational competence, the ethical responsibility to the communities in whose service we stand is largely forsaken.


Summary of FSL Accreditation Programme:

  • Objective to accredit in 2000 according to a special Technical Work Document based on
  • ISO Guide 25
  • NATA Criteria for forensic science (crime) laboratories
  • ASCLD Lab.
  • Quality Management System will be based on principles of ISO 9001 — ISO Guide 25 will change during the latter part of 1999, and will be replaced with ISO 17025.
  • Quality Systems will focus on:
  • Impact the FSL has on crime investigation
  • Competence of personnel (in-house) and support personnel (rest of SAPS)
  • Continuous improvement and development of approach, methods and personnel
  • Fact-based management




Quality Assurance


Quality assurance in forensic sciences is a continuous process which extends from the crime scene to the court room. The determining factor in whether a forensic examination is "good enough" is often made in the courtroom by non-scientists. It is in this context that presiding officials in courts of law qualify as primary customers of the services rendered by a forensic laboratory. Their essential need is for reliable scientific testimony to be offered by competent forensic experts to illuminate the trial of criminal cases.

Attributes essential to good scientific expert testimony are a solid scientific education in collaboration with a scientific climate fostered in the workplace. To provide expert scientific testimony in the true sense of the word a court of law, a solid scientific background is fundamental. Clearly there are constraints on the ability of the scientist to control testimony in the courtroom environment. These limitations do not absolve us from the obligation to attempt to make the testimony as clear and scientific as possible.In 1963, Dr Paul Kirk wrote the following in the journal Science: "A master of all techniques may remain merely a technician, and the best of all technicians is not necessarily a satisfactory criminalist. The criminalist must analyze the problem and understand the principle in order to arrive at the correct interpretation ... "






Physical evidence analysis is not a cookbook-style science, where one merely flips to the proper page in the manual for the procedure. It involves many scientific disciplines, methods and instrumentation. This multi-disciplinary aspect forces a reliance upon the forensic scientist's knowledge, training and experience. Therefore, it is incumbent on the laboratory and the scientist to continually learn, improve and gain experience.

Training in forensic sciences should not only stress up-to-date analytical and scientific methods, but also a broad understanding of the concepts underlying the forensic sciences.

Currently, however, there is no dedicated tertiary training programme in Forensic Sciences available in South Africa. All specialised training in the different scientific disciplines necessary to effectively analyse physical evidence is undertaken in-house. It is for this reason that the Training Component of the Forensic Science Laboratory is actively working towards the establishing of accredited training programmes for members of the FSL in conjunction with tertiary institutions in South Africa. It is the vision of the FSL to have these training programmes recognised and accredited internationally by respected authorities in Forensic Sciences.

Summary of Training Programmes and Needs

No tertiary institution in S.A. providing graduate or post-grad studies in Forensic Science

• prohibitive cost of international training

• cost of no training — thus: development of dedicated in-house training programs

Improved capacity of criminal investigators (To improve the competency of investigators) — Priority 6: Investigative Services

• training of individuals responsible for collection and submission of evidentiary material intended for forensic analysis in criminal litigation

× crime scene officers

× investigating officers / detectives

× medical practitioners





Core Business of the Forensic Science Laboratory

The Forensic Science Laboratory is fully committed to achieving the Policing Priorities and Objectives (PPO) for the period 1999 — 2000, as set out by the top management of the South African Police Service. Following is a brief summary of the PPO's where the FSL can play a significant role.


PPO 1: Firearms


Aim: A decrease in violent crimes committed with firearms


Objective: To increase the clearance rate in firearm related cases


Involvement of FSL:

  • IBIS
  • examination of firearms currently held in SAP 13 stores


PPO 2: Criminal Organizations


Aim: A decrease in the number of Criminal Organizations


Objective: To improve measures aimed at curbing the activities of Criminal Organizations


Involvement of FSL:

  • National Drug Intelligence Database
  • Demand Note and Anonymous Letter Database


PPO 3: Violence against women and children


Aim: Improved quality of service to women and children as victims of violent crimes


Objective: To improve multi-disciplinary cooperation to combat crimes against women and children


Involvement of FSL:

  • Establishment of DCID
  • Setting of a National Standard for Evidence Collection in Sexual Assault Cases
  • National Standard and Guideline in sexual assault evidence collection to be compiled in conjunction with relevant role players (medical practitioners — Dept of Health; Dept of Justice; NGO's) and submitted for national implementation
  • Training
  • Training in evidence collection for medical practitioners performing clinical medico-legal examination on patients of sexual abuse


PPO 6: Investigative Services


Aim: Improved capacity for effective criminal investigations


Objective: To improve the competency of investigators


Operational Environment of the Forensic Science Laboratory

The Forensic Science Laboratory and its members — our most valuable resource — take tremendous pride in our combined efforts in the continuous battle against crime.



Our successes are well appreciated by our clients — the investigating officer, the courts of law, and inevitably the community that we serve. It would be an injustice to the laboratories' hard-working individuals to single out specific cases as major successes; every case where a contribution towards the cause of justice is made must be regarded as a significant success. Instead, it is with pleasure and conserved pride that we can highlight technological advances brought about in our laboratories. These include, but are not limited to, the introduction of the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS), the DNA Criminal Intelligence Database (DCID), the National Drug Intelligence Database, and the establishment of a Database for Demand Notes, to mention but a few. We realise our obligation to the communities that we serve to stay abreast with the latest emerging technologies in order to have significant impact on the investigation of crime.


Barriers and Limitations

There are, however, certain concerns in the form of barriers and limitations that we are faced with. These constraints have a devastating potential ranging between limiting the analysis functions of this establishment, to the total absconding of certain key functions.

These barriers include, but are not limited to, the retention of expertise and budgetary constraints.



When compared with functional police officers, salaries earned by forensic specialists are not related to their experience as scientists and do not necessarily reflect the incurred responsibility inherent to the profession. This, in real terms, equates to the situation where two individuals in similar ranks earn similar salaries, but with no comparison in responsibility or specialist experience.




Limited scope for promotion


The organisational structure under which forensic specialists operate provides extremely limited scope for promotion. This demoralising situation undermines all hope of recruiting individuals with any degree of prior work experience. New incumbents have to be trained from scratch. If a person leaves the employment of the laboratory, it is not a simple matter of replacing the person with another individual of equal work related experience. Years of expertise are lost with each resignation, while a minimum of three years are needed to train a replacement, who will start off with no experience, except that gained during the training programme.




Affirmative action


The implementation of an expedient affirmative action programme suffers as a direct consequence of the inadequate remuneration for expertise forming part of our current structure. Individuals are simply lured away by more advantageous market-related packages in the private sector.




Overwhelming workload


When compared to other forensic laboratories internationally, the Forensic Science Laboratory in South Africa has to deal with an overwhelming workload in all arenas of its involvement in the analysis of physical evidence. Both a shortage of personnel and a crime rate ranking among the highest in the world contribute to this situation.




Hazardous working milieu


The pre-trial destruction of evidence of a narcotic nature after a representative sample for analysis was collected, ranks as a priority of immediate concern since large volumes of drugs need to be retained for extended periods.





These concerns have the potential to nullify some of the good successes achieved by the Forensic Science Laboratory, at a cost that we will not be able to recuperate from — especially when the well-being of our members are at stake.



Crime takes many forms, from the most sophisticated in the field of high finance and computers, to those crimes from which we turn with revulsion. A common characteristic, however, is that, with the explosion of knowledge, now to have the uncovering and proving of crime become more complicated and of more sophisticated. It is in this area that the Forensic Science Laboratory has proved its worth. The high esteem in which the laboratory held, both nationally and internationally has however, not come easily. Only by dint of continued study, unremitting research, careful training, and a good portion of old-fashioned hard word, has it reached, and will it maintain, its enviable position within the family of the South African Police Service.

Assistant Commissioner K B Morris

National Head: Forensic Science Laboratory


Appendix 2:


SAPS Criminal Record Centre



1. Introduction

The South African Police Service Criminal Record Centre (SAPS CRC) is a large and important subdivision of the National Detective Service (see Annexure A). The environment of the SAPS CRC is highly specialised and most of its functions are related to fingerprints because of its irrefutable ability for identification. The SAPS CRC is a recognised authority in the field of the Fingerprint Science and is an active member of international organisations such as the International Association for Identification (IAI) and the Fingerprint Society. A unique corporate image for the SAPS CRC was established with the development of the SAPS CRC emblem and motto, Iustitia per Agnoscendum, which means Justice through Identity, thus expressing the essence of the SAPS CRC.

  1. Historical Background

Fingerprints are used to identify criminals and to link convicted criminals to their criminal history. For this reason, the history of the SAPS CRC is entwined with the history of the Fingerprint Science (Dactyloscopy) in South Africa.

The SAPS CRC started as separate provincial Fingerprint Bureaus which were founded during the early 1900's by Colonel William Clarke, Sir Edward Henry, Sergeant AE Passman and Captain Mitchell Haigh.

During 1920, Colonel TG Truter, then Commissioner of the South African Police, decided to unite the provincial Fingerprint Bureaus in Pretoria as the South African Criminal Bureau and on 1 October 1920, the first personnel moved into the building known as Kya Rosa, in Skinner Street, Pretoria. The amalgamation of the provincial Fingerprint Bureaus was completed on 1 April 1925.

Branch offices of the South African Criminal Bureau remained in the main centres to provide a scientific support service for crime scene investigation. These offices later became known as the Local Criminal Record Centres (LCRC).

Over the years, the South African Criminal Bureau rapidly grew in size and frequently had to move to larger premises. On 9 November 1988, the institution moved to the Sanlam Plaza-West building in Schoeman Street, Pretoria and the name was officially changed to the SAPS Criminal Record Centre (SAPS CRC).


3. Vision and Mission of the CRC

The vision of the CRC is to gain international recognition as a leader in Dactylos-

copy and to become the most effective support service for the South African Police Service.

The mission of the Criminal Record Centre is to strive to deliver social order by supplying specialised and scientific support services to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the community.

In order to achieve these ideals the Criminal Record Centre has divided its resources into two components, namely the Criminal Record Centre (Head quarters) and the Local Criminal Record Centres.


4. The Criminal Record Centre (Head Quarters)

The Criminal Record Centre is situated in Pretoria with the main purpose of providing information to authorized persons or institutions concerning persons, criminals and offenders. The Head Quarters is divided into eighteen sections (see Annexure B) with a staff complement of 627 (see Annexure C). The CRC is also responsible to manage its own operational budget (R44 million for the 1999/ 2000 financial year).


4.1 Various functions are performed by the Criminal Record Centre

  • The tracing (manually) of criminal records by means of fingerprints through a fingerprint library of approximately 4.5 million fingerprints.
  • The computerisation of relevant information pertaining to crime and criminals.
  • The provision of information concerning the investigation of crime.
  • The administration of previous conviction reports for court purposes.
  • The preparation of bail opposing reports.
  • The computerised preservation of source documents.
  • The management of all the Criminal Record Centre's computer systems.
  • The provision of relevant training.
  • The provision of logistical services and financial management.
  • The performing of administrative functions.
  • The scientific research regarding criminal information and dactyloscopic techniques.
  • The support to management by means of effective planning.


4.2 Comparative Statistics 1996/ 98 : Criminal Record Centre Component

See Annexure D


5. Local Criminal Record Centres

There are presently 91 Local Criminal Record Centres (see Annexure E) distributed throughout South Africa. The current staff complement is 1846 (see Annexure F). The aim of these centres is to provide a specialized service in the investigation of crime.


5.1 Each centre consists of highly trained personnel who perform the following functions:

  • The coordination of Local Criminal Record Centres work activities (Provincial Commander).
  • The investigation of crime scenes in relation to:

- fingerprints;

- completion of sketches and the drafting of plans;

- taking photographs;

- the collection of audiovisual evidence;

- the collection of forensic evidence.

  • The delivering of expert evidence.
  • The provision of visual graphic art works for criminal investigators (identi-kit).
  • The identification of criminals by means of expert investigation techniques and manual searches are made in the Local Criminal Record Centre libraries.
  • The provision of criminal information to investigating officers.
  • The processing of fingerprints with the purpose of producing a previous conviction report (CRIM System).
  • The sole provider of photographic equipment to the SAPS.
  • The provision of relevant training.


5.2 Comparative Statistics 1996/ 98 : Local Criminal Record Centres

See Annexure G

6. Criminal Record Centre Clients

The SAPS CRC provides a service not only to the SAPS but also to the following:

- Government Departments

- S.A. Mines

- Board of Security Officials

- Foreign Police Agencies

- Foreign Government Departments

- Authorised institutions and businesses

- Community

Substantial revenue is generated for the State for services provided by the Criminal Record Centre (Approximately R9 million per annum).

Computer Systems Developed and in use at the CRC


See Annexure H

8. The role of the SAPS CRC in the Policing Priorities and Objectives

The CRC has undertaken to improve the service provided to the SAPS and the community through the CRC's various functions and specialized investigative techniques. Except for the under-mentioned roles, the CRC is also responsible for the specialized and scientific investigation of crimes mentioned in the Policing Priorities and Objectives.


8.1 Priority 1 : Firearms

All firearm applications are forwarded to the CRC where the fingerprints of the applicant are verified for previous convictions and possible false information. The LCRC is responsible to test persons for traces of metal, originating from firearms, and the etching of firearms where the firearm number has been removed.


8.2 Priority 2 : Criminal Organizations

The CRC supplies information regarding members of criminal organizations to investigation units. The LCRC is responsible for the scientific examination of money, documents and cheques often used by these organizations. Members of the component are involved in capturing the conduct of these persons on film or video.


8.3 Priority 3 : Crimes against Women and Children

The CRC supplies information regarding persons involved in these crimes to assist various investigation units. The LCRC, Facial Identification Section, has achieved numerous successes in the compilation of facial 'identi-kits' of missing children, rapists and molesters.


8.4 Priority 4 : Corruption within the SA Police Service

The LCRC is responsible for the scientific examination of money, documents and cheques often used by corrupt officials. Investigation services, eg Silver Nitrate treatments, where a person's hands become stained if he comes into contact with treated objects, are rendered to investigation officers.


8.5 Priority 5 : Active Visible Policing (Targeted Crime Prevention)

The CRC, Criminal Information Section, provides a 24-hour service supplying information to investigation officers. These services are rendered to all units conducting crime prevention operations.


8.6 Priority 6: Investigative Services

Various services are performed, namely:

  • The identification of unknown criminals through fingerprints.
  • The forensic examination of crime scenes.
  • The supply of crime and criminal information to investigation officers by decentralizing the CRC functions to local level (CRIM and Circulation Systems).
  • The swift supply of bail opposing reports.
  • The envisaged Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) implementation and decentralization.
  • The management of the NCPS Crime Scene Handling project (Crime Scene Manual/ crime scene kits/ training (Crime Scene Manual)/ ensure the effective utilization of specialised units e.g. CRC, FSL).
  • Constant research to improve the quality of investigation services.


8.7 Priority 7 : Victim empowerment

  • The investigation officer is supplied with information concerning the progress of the investigation regarding evidence obtained at a crime scene. The investigation officer then has the ability to convey this progress to the victim.


8.8 Priority 8: Budget and Resource Management

  • The compilation of organizational goals.
  • Strategic planning, implementation and evaluation of action steps to utilize resources and human resource costs effectively.
  • The implementation and monitoring of internal, cost saving regulations (e.g. payment for private telephone calls/ cell phone expenditure limited).
  • The research, implementation and development of more cost effective equipment ( Pinto Light (light source)/ new etch machine) and procedures (redistribution of resources).


8.9 Priority 9: Professional Conduct

  • Monitoring and inspection of services rendered.
  • An Acknowledgement committee for outstanding conduct.


9. Problems Facing the Criminal Record Centre

Various factors hamper the efficient functioning of the CRC for example:

  • Fingerprint searches have become a blockage in the Criminal Justice System (CJS).
  • The efficiency of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is directly linked to fingerprints, whereby a persons previous convictions is scientifically identified without any doubt. The Criminal Record Centre (CRC) is the main link between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other departments of the CJS. It is also the department of the SAPS whose function is to aid external departments e.g. identify and produce previous convictions for court cases. The whole CJS is dependant on the service provided by the CRC. It is for this reason that the speed by which this service can be rendered dictates the speed and effectiveness of the CJS. Due to factors such as sanctions and finance, the South African Police Service is one of the few police agencies which still do fingerprint identifications manually. This manual system is a major blockage in the present Criminal Justice System.
  • The manual system is inefficient and ineffective resulting in a negative effect on the judicial process.
  • The manual system is inefficient when prompt results are required. This is normally the case in bail applications and to determine if a person is wanted. It is a known fact that if a hardened criminal's bail application is judged without his previous convictions taken in account , and he is released on bail, that he will skip bail or commit another offence. It has been observed internationally that when manual fingerprint archives become too large that the service provided by the fingerprint institutions become ineffective. This leads to a scenario where the users do not bother to make use of the service because results take too long. This has a very negative effect on the judicial process. 51% (1998) of offenders are sentenced by the courts without taking the previous convictions into consideration.
  • It is becoming almost impossible to achieve an acceptable level of accurate results on a manual system.
  • It is becoming almost impossible to achieve an acceptable level of accurate results on a manual system which is growing at an alarming rate. The errors that are appearing in the manual system are not in any way detrimental to the criminal and is not serving the interest of the state or the community. Due to the alarming increase in the size of the central file, an excessive increase in the amount of daily searches and amount of documentation entering and leaving the SAPS Criminal Record Centre, misidentifications are increasing, the result being that accused persons are wrongly sentenced in court, as though they were first time offenders. This situation is difficult to control and leads to hardened criminals being released into society.
  • The response time to produce a criminal record for court purposes is unacceptable. This forces the court to postpone cases and in most instances the accused are remanded in custody awaiting the criminal record.
  • Long training period for the manual system.
  • The complexity of the manual system forces new recruits to be trained over a long period. Normally a new recruit would only function effectively after a period of 2 years.
  • The investigation of crime is being hampered by labour intensive processes.
  • The Local Criminal Record Centres (LCRC), are inter-alia, tasked with the lifting of fingerprints on crime scenes. In the event of fingerprints being lifted, searches are made in the Local Criminal Record Centre Libraries. This process, although effective, results in experts spending many hours searching through the library of fingerprints. These searches are limited to the local libraries as the amount of cases attended, makes it an impossibility to contemplate launching searches in adjacent Local Criminal Record Centre libraries. The demands that the ever increasing crime rate is making on the limited number of trained staff and the time consuming process of manually searching scene of crime fingerprints through a library at the Local Criminal Record Centre is hampering the investigation of crime, resulting in superficial work being done. The end result is that the Local Criminal Record Centres are not achieving their true potential in contributing to solving crime. The SAPS members could be used in areas where their specialized knowledge is needed. This will especially be beneficial to the SAPS.
  • High personnel losses accompanied with loss of expertise.
  • Reaction time in respect of service deliverables is not satisfactory due to personnel shortages and manual procedures.
  • Insufficient logistical support.
  • Inadequate funds hamper efficiency and expansion of the organisation.
  • Accommodation and maintenance are insufficient.
  • Computerised fingerprint system is not implemented.


10. Quo Vadis.....the way forward.....

10.1 Introduction

The various deficiencies and disadvantages of the present situation have motivated the CRC to investigate possible solutions for, or improve the scientific support services rendered to the Detective Service. This has lead to the identification of the following:

  • acquisition of an AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System);
  • establishment of expert Scientific Support Teams;
  • establishment of a Specialised Support Service Fingerprint Identification Laboratory (hereinafter referred to as the Fingerprint Laboratory).


National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS):

The NCPS has recognized the AFIS as being the most important priority in order to address the blockages in the Criminal Justice System (CJS).


White Paper on Safety and Security:

The White Paper on Safety and Security has identified the improvement of criminal investigations as one of the SAPS main priorities for the next five years.


National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS):

The NCPS has identified Crime Scene Handling as a priority within SAPS.


SAPS Policing Priorities and Objectives 1999/ 2000:

SAPS has identified Investigative Services as an organisational priority for the 1999/ 2000 financial year.

10.2 Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)

The Criminal Justice System (CJS) is dependant on information concerning persons with previous convictions. To address the need of providing an efficient service to the whole of South Africa, the CRC has taken the bold step of decentralising its functions to the LCRC's (1996- 14 LCRC's/ 1999- 59 LCRC's), which are distributed throughout South Africa. The computerised records of convicted persons (CRIM-System) has been decentralised, enabling LCRC's access to the details and previous conviction sheets of these persons.

Certain LCRC's already have the capability to perform certain CRC functions, e.g. registering fingerprint forms. All LCRC can produce previous conviction reports. A drawback is the fact that all records must be verified by means of fingerprints. A function that can presently only take place at the national fingerprint library in Pretoria.

The CRC has been researching Automated Fingerprint Identification System technology for approximately ten years and has found that it is the solution to improve the quality of service in the CJS.

Various SAPS representatives have visited global AFIS sites and the CRC has received numerous visits from international vendors, consultants and experts. Due to this mutual cooperation, valuable insight was gained into the advantages of AFIS technology.

It is imperative that an AFIS be purchased for the SAPS to ensure that the integrity of the data on which the justice process is based is maintained and thus optimizes the service provided to the CJS and the community.

10.2.1 Benefits of an AFIS

The automation of the fingerprint identification process has the following advantages to the CJS:

  • Faster response times in producing criminal records in respect of people in custody awaiting trial, bail applications and identifying wanted criminals;
  • The ability of AFIS to search scene-of-crime prints (latent searches) more effectively than the present manual system will lead to more criminals being identified;
  • Increase in accuracy and productivity as an automated process will reduce the risk of human error and eliminate the manual process of fingerprint classification and searching. AFIS will enable the operators to search minute detail of a fingerprint which is humanly impossible;
  • Fingerprint information and criminal records will be available in real time; and
  • The electronic transfer of fingerprints from different countries and institutions, e.g. FBI and Interpol, could help address international crime.

10.3 All source documents are presently computerised via optical medium. Once this function is also decentralised to the LCRC, the LCRC would have total access to all records and functions presently held and performed by the CRC.

10.4 Scientific Support Teams and Fingerprint Laboratory

The investigation of crime has no effect on the crime situation of a country, unless it results in successful prosecution, conviction and enforced sentencing. The latter could be ensured, if the criminal case is handled properly. This emphasises the importance of the investigation of the scene of crime.

The recovery of physical evidence during the investigation of scenes of crime, is one of the most important endeavours of contemporary law enforcement.

The tangible items of evidence and the descriptive information derived from scene of crime investigations make the difference between success and failure when a case is brought to trial.

The main purpose of the CRC is to identify and verify the previous convictions of persons by means of fingerprints. The Local Criminal Record Centres (LCRC's) form an integral part of the CRC and are also responsible, inter alia, for specialised investigation of crime scenes and the scientific collection of exhibits at the scene of crime.

Fingerprints are considered to be one of the most valuable types of physical evidence in the field of forensic science. The basis of latent (scene of crime fingerprints) fingerprint development and the application thereof is rooted in chemistry. Scientists are continuously seeking for new methods or strive to improve existing methods for the visualisation of latent fingerprints.

10.4.1 Therefore, the CRC decided to embark on a process to establish the following:

  • Scientific Support Teams;
  • Fingerprint Laboratory.

10.4.2 The purpose of the Scientific Support Teams is, inter alia, the following:

  • take sole responsibility for identified scenes of crime and investigate it with regard to scientific and specialized evidence (ie fingerprints, plan drawing, photography, audiovisual, forensic fieldwork);
  • to manage scientific and specialised evidence in identified scenes of crime;
  • ensure that the investigation of identified scenes of crime pertaining to scientific and specialized evidence is done in the best possible manner;
  • alleviate the workload of investigating officers;
  • provide an efficient, high quality level of support service to the Detective Service;
  • play a meaningful role in the fight against crime.

10.4.3 The purpose of the Fingerprint Laboratory is to make provision for the establishment of a well equipped Specialised Support Service Fingerprint Identification Laboratory that complies with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 and is, inter alia, task with the following:

  • provide an efficient, high quality level of support service to the Detective Service;
  • alleviate the workload of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL);
  • play a meaningful role in the fight against crime;
  • keeping up to date with international trends;
  • evaluation and testing of new chemical reagents and instrumental methods;
  • to assist fingerprint experts in the development, enhancement and visualisation of latent fingerprints, regarding scientific and specialised evidence, by means of state-of-the-art equipment and methods;
  • research.

10.4.4 Benefits of Scientific Support Teams and Fingerprint Laboratory for the SA Police Service and the CRC

  • contribute to the priorities identified by the White Paper on Safety and Security, NCPS and SAPS Policing Priorities and Objectives 1999/ 2000;
  • contribute to a more safe and secure environment for all people in South Africa;
  • improved scientific investigation of crime;
  • an improved image;
  • improved productivity and effectiveness of fingerprint experts;
  • improved resource management;
  • establishment of a central fingerprint examination capacity that will contribute to the investigation and solving of identified crimes;
  • more successful prosecutions;
  • fingerprint examinations in identified crimes will be timely;
  • ensure standardised procedures.



The CRC has been recognised, by international identification organisations, as a leader in the field of fingerprint identifications. However, the CRC will have to be at the international forefront and will have to remain a leader in identification in order to serve the changing needs of the CRC experts who require reskilling more frequently. Access to relevant knowledge and info sources, knowledge contribution and creation will be expedited through the use of appropriate technologies.

Contact with international experts in the field will enrich the learning environment and collaborative research will be facilitated through the use of the same advanced technologies.

The SAPS Criminal Record Centre constantly strive to improve its service to the Criminal Justice System, SA Police Service, the community and to address the increasing demand for efficient investigative support as well as the provision of accurate and reliable criminal information.

There is no doubt that the SAPS Criminal Record Centre will meet these challenges with the same devotion and enthusiasm that brought it from its humble beginnings in 1900 to where it is today.



  • Annexure A:- SAPS National Structure
  • Annexure B:- CRC (Head Quarters) Structure
  • Annexure C:- CRC (Head Quarters) Staff Complement
  • Annexure D:- CRC (Head Quarters) Comparative Statistics 1996 and 1998
  • Annexure E:- LCRC Structure
  • Annexure F:- LCRC Staff Complement
  • Annexure G:- LCRC Comparative Statistics 1996 and 1998
  • Annexure H:- Computer Systems in use at the CRC

[e-mail for the Annexures]


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