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Testing delays denied

Fri, 10 Sep 2004

Testing delays denied

ESR and the Police have denied claims by Dr Muriel Newman that delays in testing samples at ESR are putting investigations into serious crimes at risk.
ESR and the police said they do not know of any current cases where a delay in sample analysis was compromising an investigation or where exhibits for homicides were delaying court proceedings Serious crime samples are prioritised by forensic scientists and significant samples are dealt with immediately with police informed usually as soon as a result is found.

In the case of a homicide up to 100 samples and exhibits can be submitted to ESR, sometimes over an extended period of time.

ESR's highly trained forensic experts may assess that some samples are not suitable for further analysis but these are kept logged as 'samples submitted' for legal reasons. In addition samples for a particular case may be submitted over an extended period so the 'case work in progress" figures can show an extended time frame.

"Casework samples forwarded to ESR by Police are assigned a priority. Ongoing consultation between the ESR case manager and the Officer in Charge of the investigation may result in some samples never being tested, said General Manager - Forensic, Wayne Chisnall.

Exhibits and samples in a particular case that are deemed by the Police to require urgent examination are given priority by ESR and can be completed within a month

Southern District crime manager Detective Inspector Ross Pinkham was reported in the Otago Daily Times as saying that southern police were pleased with the response time from ESR.

Samples relating to an alleged home invasion in Gore in June, in which an elderly man died, and the killing of Wendy and Will Mercer in Dunedin in May, appeared to be the only ones outstanding, he said. Two men had been charged with manslaughter in the Gore case, while the alleged killer in the Mercer case, Kelvin Mercer, died after setting himself on fire.

"So it is just not the case that overdue samples are hampering resolutions for us," Det Insp Pinkham said.


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