Letters & Opinion

Reflections On A Forensic Treat

By Louis Murray

IT was exactly that. A treat that should make us feel proud as a nation that little Saint Lucia was able to rise to that high standard to host such an important gathering of professionals at the 4th Annual Caribbean Medicolegal and Forensic Symposium which took place last weekend at the Harbor Club St. Lucia, Curio Collection by Hilton.

The symposium attracted a number of knowledgeable, experienced, specialists and consultants in areas of law, anatomical and forensic pathology, emergency medicine, paediatric medicine, forensic odontology, forensic science, social counseling, criminal investigations relating to acts against vulnerable persons and research. By the theme of the symposium, ‘Protecting the Children of the Caribbean from Maltreatment and Abuse’, the speakers were all persons who in their professionals lives are engaged at varying levels in work touching on the general abuse, in particular sexual abuse, of children. There was latitude and scientific experiences which were court related also formed part of the mix.

I have attended conferences and symposia in international jurisdictions and I can assure that Saint Lucia was not entirely left out and the organizers can be credited with high marks. It is not often that conferences and symposia of that nature occur here and when that happens, in whatever field, it is incumbent that the relevant professionals seize those rare opportunities to interface with the experts. In Saint Lucia it’s always the same small set of professionals that usually do whilst their other colleagues prefer instead to let those opportunities ‘slide’ by. I think that those practicing medical and legal persons here who were absent cheated themselves of the opportunity to hear and appreciate valuable information presented.

Generally while the presentations can be described as being very informative and interesting some even lively, quite a few stood out as gripping. For me and in no particular order the American based forensic pathologists Drs. Gary Collins and Jan Gorniak displayed great experience in their field by the quality of their case work presentations. Our Dr. Stephen King’s reflections on his thirty years in pathology in Saint Lucia was a well put together twist as he used the opportunity to signal his professional departure from anatomical pathology. In his day he was our only pathologist and as he commented we now have five and so the path is open for the new ones.

OECS and UNICEF legal consultant Jacqueline Sealy-Burke also displayed her command of her field as it relates to child abuse and justice and while I missed the presentation of Justice Kathy Ann Waterman-Latchoo, the number of references made to her presentation spoke to her high level of contribution to the symposium. In the category of gripping, Emergency Medicine Physician and Sexual Assault Examiner Dr. Rhonda Hutson from Jamaica scored very high. She had my full attention throughout and when I conversed with Dr. Jacqueline Bird about that presentation she too scored her high.

Three scientists from our forensic science laboratory gave presentations, two of which centered on DNA in the investigative process. For me I had the historical perspective on the Evolution of the Forensic Science Services in Saint Lucia. What we had then and what we have now and it was important to have allowed some of the history to be known. I was extremely happy to have seized the opportunity to dedicate my presentation to the memory of former Commissioner of Police Brian Bernard. It was a touching aspect for me as I can easily describe him as having been a true friend and ally of forensic science in Saint Lucia. In support of my dedication I indicated, in part, ‘He not only presented me with the opportunity to work on my first forensic case but also, in quick order, acquired a tremendous appreciation for the science and its importance and maintained a keen and deep interest in its use throughout his tenure in the hierarchy of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. He sought the utilization of the scientific service at every opportunity he thought necessary, accepted professional advice given and at times had to literally fight, even against the odds, to help ensure continuity of the service. He remained stellar in his unflinching support for forensic science right up to his passing; no better indication of his strong belief in its worth’.

Hats off to the organizers and they are entitled to feel really proud. The symposium was one of a series, to date, which was initiated in 2016 in Saint Vincent. A number of professionals to include Dr. Alfredo Walker of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa can be credited as the engine behind its continuance and success.

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