Country to have operational forensic lab by mid 2023

The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) is expecting to have a fully functional forensic lab by mid next year as 60 percent of the construction work on the building is complete. A Police Forensic Science Laboratory in Serbithang, which started its building construction in September 2021, is expected to complete by mid 2023. The project cost is Nu 24.4 million (mn). Not having a forensic lab in the country impeded crime investigation works in criminal cases.

Relevant agencies that deal with criminal offences, like RBP and OAG have shared the challenges in case prosecution as they have to wait long for DNA results, which are sent to other countries due to lack of the forensic facilities in the country.

It was pointed out that sexual offences and paternity cases require DNA evidence, and not having the forensic lab to gather such evidence was a big challenge. Similarly, when there is a heinous crime committed, it is difficult to detect the prime suspect instantly.

Not having forensic lab in the country, not only have huge cost implications to the government, but also, they are not able to deliver justice on time.

Currently, RBP sends the DNA samples to as far as the United Kingdom (UK), which ultimately is very expensive due to various processes and heavy profiling. Moreover, sending the sample to India for the test takes time, ranging from a minimum 6 months to 1 year.

An official from RBP said that the construction is underway and some of the equipment have arrived in the country already. Once the building construction is completed, the small forensic unit which is being operated from the RBP headquarter will be shifted there.

He said, “The lab consists of DNA, fingerprint and a cybercrime unit. Currently, maximum cases related to sexual abuse and paternity are referred to third country for DNA testing, which has a huge budget implication.”

In addition, he also said that time to get back the test results, meaning the turnaround time is too long. Therefore, having a lab will address all the said issues and challenges that they are facing at the moment.

In the small unit that they have at the moment, though they do a DNA and fingerprint here which do not need referral, the only facility they have for the cybercrime is digital forensic, data abstraction.

“In terms of cybercrime, maximum cases, we do it here but there are few cases which would need referral for forensic analysis. Having forensic lab in the country would bring down the turnaround time to one week from minimum six months, which is minimum today,” he added.

It was learnt that with the lab in place, 95 percent of the cases referral to third country will be brought down, and that means huge cost saving for the government. In addition, he also said that with the proper facilities in place, justice could be delivered on time.

Fingerprint analysis is done within the country for now as they have the fingerprint expert.  However, having to send the samples for the tests, he said that there are high chances of samples getting deteriorated.

Meanwhile, in the past, he said that anything to do with the suspected unnatural death or suspected to have died due to poisoning, they need to send the sample to India to determine the actual cause. Today, they have a toxicology lab in JDWNRH which is why they need not have to send it to India.

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