National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, second from left, and Chinese Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Fang Qiu engage media after signing a memorandum of understanding for the funding and building of a new forensics science centre at Farm Road, St Joseph, at a signing ceremony at the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, on Monday. – Photo by Roger Jacob
MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds and Chinese Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Fang Qiu on Monday at Hinds’ office at Tower C of the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, signed an MOU for the funding and construction of a new forensic science centre (FSC) to be built at Farm Road, St Joseph.
Also present was Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher and Snr Supt (Homicide) Rishi Singh, plus permanent secretary Natasha Barrow.
Hinds and Qiu both praised their countries’ long history of good relations.
Hinds marvelled at China’s extremely low homicide rate of just 30,000 deaths in a 1.4 billion population, compared to some countries reaching 48.1 deaths per 100,000 citizens. “How are they doing it? How is that society different to TT?” Hinds mulled.
He said the centre via China Aid funding was the result of a 2018 technical economic co-operation deal between TT and China that he expressed as worth 100 million renminbi which Newsday estimates at about TT$95 million. The funds will be used for construction and projection management, he said, with Udecott as the supervising agency responsible for supervision, organisation and execution.
Hinds said while the agreement was for the centre to be built within 18 months, he was inspired to hope for it to be done sooner, based on China having built two 1,000-bed hospitals during the pandemic in just eight days. “It might be possible to deliver well within that time (18 months).”
He said the new, roomier location will facilitate an expansion of the staff and activities of the forensic science centre. He anticipated greater demands on the centre, due to the passage of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act which will speed up trials by eliminating the pre-trial preliminary inquiry stage.
The centre will contribute to faster prosecutions, better storage of forensic evidence, and future expansion, all while being more centrally located than at present.
Hinds said the new centre will be five times the size of the existing centre.
He spelt out need for the new centre by relating how demand had risen for forensic services from 1985 to 2023.
Hinds said in 1985, the centre handled 2,731 cases, 5,580 exhibits, 150 post mortems, 55 firearms cases, and 154 firearm exhibits.
By 2023, he said, the centre had a demand of 4,658 cases, 20,886 exhibits, 889 post mortems, 1,128 firearm cases and 9,298 firearm exhibits.
He lamented an explosion in the levels of violence in this society, yielding more work for the centre staff.
Hinds said the centre was a hub of the application of the scientific method to fight crime, in a world of increasing criminal sophistication. In a society of fewer individuals become witnesses, while more reliance is placed on video recordings and forensic science. The new centre will impact the criminal justice system, he said.
Hinds boasted of the existing centre solving seven murders by using ballistics (bullet) analysis and three murders by DNA analysis.
He listed the recent steps taken to improve the old centre, namely conducting repairs, recalibrating equipment, and recruiting staff from the police service.
Hinds said that nowadays, the centre can match a suspected firearm to various past crime scenes, within 48 hours. He claimed significant improvements in the FSC and led those present in applause for the centre’s manager, Derrick Sankar, and his team.
He boasted that the existing helped solve the murder of a family of children at the Heights of Guanapo and a man at Lady Chancellor Hill.
Hinds listed upgrades to the centre, including the purchase of a TT$532,000 gas chromatographer, plus the digitisation of certain processes.
In the question session, Hinds said the centre and the police service had both had some “muscle” added to them.