Forensic Science Serving Justice

Presenter: Dr Marise Heyns

Dr Marise Heyns

Dr Heyns is the convenor of the Biomedical Forensic Science Programmes at UCT. She started her career with a PhD degree in Zoology and she completed a MBA at US, graduating cum laude and as the top student, she was awarded the Director’s award for academic achievement and leadership. She has lectured gross anatomy with dissection to medical, dental, nursing, science and paramedical students at UP medical school, UWC dental school and for 7 years at Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

She returned to South Africa, fuelled with the drive to contribute to the fight against crime and specifically the training of forensically qualified postgraduate students to generate research and knowledge in the field of forensics, applicable to the South African and Africa situation. She has more than 25 years of tertiary academic experience and is currently engaged in forensic research in the fields of victimology, trauma, forensic entomology, marine decomposition and forensic education. She is also an elected member of the Forensic Science Steering committee engaged with the establishment of a representative body for the Forensic Science sector.

Forensic Science in South Africa is at a cross roads. On the GOOD side we have excellent facilities and universities with well trained and experienced scientists that analyse evidence and support the judicial system. On the BAD side we have uncredited laboratories and unregulated scientists that are presenting evidence that will not stand the tests of peer review and unbiased, professional standards. Can we allow history to repeat itself where the UGLY side resulted in unscientific evidence being accepted by the courts, or where the media presents a flawed reality that influences the public’s perceptions. Did we not learn from the past?

Many young graduates and scholars are looking at Forensic Science as a future career. Only by increasing our professional status, with subsequent registration and accreditation, can we ensure that forensic science continues as a career and that it serves justice. The newly established South African Academy of Forensic Sciences are moving forward by opening membership and a register for forensic scientists who maintain high professional standards and conduct themselves according to a Code of Ethics.

This presentation will ignite conversation about Forensic Science of the past, present and future.