Rapists roam free due to backlog in DNA testing and investigations, says Action Society
Cape Town - Pressure group Action Society has called on the government to empower civil society organisations to assist in addressing the inefficiencies in the DNA testing and investigation processes to accelerate the prosecution of sexual offenders.
The group said the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFLS) has ground to a near halt with over 125 000 cases — of which 92% are sexual assault kits that have not been processed. This has let rapists roam free, the group said.
Action Society spokesperson Daleen Gouws said the first 48 hours of a case was the most critical. They suggest that the government assists communities to run self-managed testing labs and use of private detectives in order to fast-track findings and verify DNA information.
Gouws also emphasised the importance of implementing Sexual Offences Courts and the public availability of the National Registry of Sex Offenders (NRSO) and for private institutions to be mandated with managing the list.
“This, together with the ability to do own testing and investigation, will lead to more and faster sentencing. We need to arrest and prosecute sexual offenders while evidence of their monstrous act is still fresh and at hand. These people need to be removed from our communities before they can destroy another life,” she said.
Gouws said this will not only be effective but will also make the process more bearable for families of rape victims. “In order to stop sexual predators from repeating their crimes, victims must feel able to step forward. Due to lack of faith in the system and extensive lawsuits which often result in dockets being lost or witnesses becoming unfit to testify, victims hesitate to report a crime,” Gouws said.
Fight Back SA founding director Nicole Mirkin said governmental procedures – or the lack thereof – have failed the women and children of South Africa.
“DNA testing has been proven to be the easiest way to identify rapists and violent criminals, especially when it comes to people who are cognitively impaired or minors. The gravity of the situation we face is immense. When there are such astronomical backlogs, we fail the 5-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted, whose guardians await justice for excruciatingly long periods of time. This is an indication of a government that does not care for its most vulnerable citizens,” she said
Mirkin said it was unacceptable that the lack of humanity and passion with regards to these processes allows for slow work and human error in the institutions that are funded to supposedly fight and protect the victims of violence. She said Fight Back SA believes that the lack of effort and intense delays were, in turn, directly responsible for the escalating levels of violence faced by women, by perpetrators who are free to roam the country.