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Over 900 drugs samples tested at local Forensic Lab since 2009

Over 900 drugs samples tested at local Forensic Lab since 2009

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Since its official opening on April 17, 2009, approximately 900 samples of marijuana and cocaine have been tested and analyzed at the Forensic Laboratory at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital,{{more}} significantly decreasing the government’s expenditure on drugs testing abroad.

Antoinette Fraser, Senior Forensic Scientist at the lab, told SEARCHLIGHT that if one looks at the expenditure before this country did its own drug testing, the state was shelling out $200,000 to $250,000 annually to have testing done in Barbados.

According to Fraser, laboratories overseas have changed their method of analysis, which automatically saw a spike in testing fees.

“Within the last year and a half, their fees have changed and reached close to half a million dollars. Since we have been testing here, we have seen south of that figure…,” Fraser explained.

She added that when testing was done overseas, police officers had to travel to Barbados, which incurred additional expenses.

“You had a situation where you paid for the police officer’s flight to go to Barbados, accommodate him, food; they would have to go back to collect the results and all the fees associated with testing and as you can see, it is a lot of money,” she added.

Last year, Fraser said she submitted an order for consumables which she used at the lab, totalling roughly US$21,000.

The $1.5 million facility was set up so that prosecutors and defendants would not have to wait months on end for results. Instead, results could be obtained in less than two weeks.

Fraser said even though drug testing is done more expeditiously than before, it still takes time to be fully analysed.

“When we used to test overseas it used to take months. The lab was implemented in three phases and we are now in our third stage, which is peer review where someone else still has to make sure our work is on point…,” Fraser said.

Fraser outlined that after testing is done here, international standards stipulate that their work must be analysed by their peers.

“We have to meet certain standard operating procedures, and have quality assurance and quality control to ensure that whatever comes out of your lab is accurate,” Fraser related.

She explained that a consultant would come from Barbados to analyse the data of the testing done here.

“The actual bench work takes about two days, and the entire testing would be done in two weeks…It has to go through peer review and even though work is finished, we have to wait until she gets time to come…,” Fraser explained.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey told SEARCHLIGHT that the consultant from Barbados has been asked to submit a proposal for implementing Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) testing at the local lab.

“Right now we are looking at the facility’s capacity, specialised equipment and skill requirements necessary for staffing…,” Pompey said.

He added that that proposal will be forwarded to Cabinet for a decision, when completed.

“This is important in terms of police investigations. Look at the situation with Shanika Small. We have to send abroad for DNA testing to be done and they are very expensive and time consuming,” Pompey said.

Currently, the lab is staffed with three persons: Forensic Technologist Nezika Haniff, who is currently abroad on study leave, Fraser and another person, who Pompey said will be trained abroad later this year.

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