Introduction According to the South African Police Service (SAPS) Forensic science is the application of scientific methods in the investigation of crime and specifically the examination of physical exhibit material (2005). The word forensic is derived from the Latin word forum and is understood to mean for the courts. The main laboratory is in Pretoria, decentralized workplaces are established in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. The laboratories in Pretoria and the Western Cape consists of all the units. KZN consists of the ballistic unit, which we will concentrate onDefinition of conceptsDeoxyribonucleic acid: a molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses.
According to encyclopaedia britiannia, it was first discovered in 1869, but its role in genetic inheritance was not demonstrated until 1943 (2018:10).Crime scene: any location that may be associated with a committed crime. According to the law enforcement and prosecution, it may include a person’s body, any type of building, vehicles, places in the open air or objects found at those locations (2008:209).
Criminalistics: an application of scientific techniques in collecting and analysing physical evidence in criminal cases. According to The Great Soviet encyclopaedia, criminalistics is the science that develops a system of special procedures, methods and means for collecting, studying and evaluating legal evidence used in criminal proceedings for the purpose of preventing, exposing or investigating crimes (1979:289)Evidence: the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid, this may be strong or weak.Forensic investigations: the practice of lawfully establishing evidence and facts that are to be presented in a court of law. According to Justica Investigations, the term is used for nearly all investigations, ranging from cases of financial fraud to murder (1992:25)Literature reviewBallistics in crime investigation was first formally established in 1923. The main function of the ballistic unit is for examining firearm and tool marks. Most examinations conducted by the ballistic unit fall into four main categories which are:Internal forensic ballistics: what physically occurs inside the gun barrel once a projectile is fired, (slides on ballistics, pg.3).External forensic ballistics: what physically happens to the projectile once it leaves the barrel, (slides on ballistics, pg.3).Terminal forensic ballistics: how a projectile act when it encounters a target, (slides on ballistics, pg.3).Intermediate forensic ballistics: the projectiles behaviour from the time it leaves the muzzle until the pressure of the projectile is equalized. Through ballistic evidence there is forensic firearm examination, it is the forensic process of examining the characteristics of firearms as well as any cartridges or bullets left behind at the crime scene. Specialists in this field are tasked with linking bullets and cartridges to weapons and weapons to individuals.Most investigations start with a crime having been committed, the process of the ballistic unit is as follows. Ballistic experts perform an analysis of the firearms and tool marks, this includes comparison of spent bullets and cartridges to weapons, determination of distance of firing, ability to fire and restoration of obliterated serial numbers on weapons. According to Jay, in a number of countries, markings on a shell or bullet are photographed through a microscope and compared with information in national databases (2019:100). Through this, ballistic experts can often determine if the rounds came from the same weapon.With the evidence, a crime lab can search for clues on these items that could lead to a suspect or possibly prove that the items were used in the crime. When a suspect weapon is examined in the lab, it will be tested fired into a box filled with cotton or a tank of water to provide the examiner with the bullets and cartridges with a known history (Doyle, 2005)Ballistic science can also be used to determine whether a person was present when a gun crime was committed. When a gun is fired, tiny specks of primer residue and gunpowder remain on the hand of the person who fired it. The police take residue samples from the suspects hands, and a lab analysis’s the samples for traces of the chemicals.When a bullet is loaded into the weapon the possibility of unique fingerprinting marks is left on the bullet cartridge known as chamber marks (Doyle, 2005). According to Meyer, marks are usually left on the cartridge after the bullet has been fired, the reason being is because the cartridge expands when fired and the imperfections of the chamber will leave unique marks on the cartridge, (2005:50).Data presentation and interpretation of findingsThe activities of the forensic science laboratory are the application of scientific principles, methods and techniques to the process of investigation. In an objective search for the truth, the intention is not only to bring offender of the law to justice but also to protect the innocent people against prosecution. Reports are submitted in respect of the analysis done and evidence is rendered should the findings be positive. To process a single cartridge takes about a week. The forensic science laboratory is one of the investigators most comprehensive investigative aids and forms an integral part of the investigation and judicial process in a variety of cases. What many people don’t realise is that when a person is shot, the wound and condition of the victim can tell a lot about the nature of the weapon that has been used. The weapon itself can go a long way to providing valuable information as to the kind of person who has committed the offence.There are four laboratory complexes around the country of South Africa, with the biggest in Pretoria which has a full array of services and the other 2 in Amanzimtoti, KZN and Port Elizabeth.The ballistic unit has four categories which are internal ballistics, external ballistics, terminal ballistics and intermediate ballistics. These ballistics will be explained further in detail.Internal ballistics is the study of the projectile’s behaviour from the time its propellants igniter is initiated until it exists the gun barrel. The barrel of a gun has one function and that is to guide the bullet to the target but needs specific detail to be able to achieve what is aimed for. One may define this study as what occurs inside the firearm and ammunition before and when a shot is fired. In other words, this is everything that occurs until the bullet exists the barrel.External ballistics is mainly determined by the velocity of the bullet, the weight and the ballistic coefficient of the bullet. When the bullet leaves the muzzle, it hits a solid wall of air, the velocity of the bullet makes the air very hard to penetrate. Every bullet starts losing velocity and drop from the trajectory of flight as soon as it leaves the barrel and the bullet drop increases as the velocity of the bullet decreases until, somewhere, the bullet hits the target or falls to the ground. One could also describe external ballistics as the study of the flight path of the bullet and all factors that influence it.Intermediate ballistics studies the projectiles behaviour from the time it leaves the muzzle until the pressure behind the projectile is equalized, so it lies between internal and external ballistics. When the bullet reaches the muzzle of the barrel, the escaping gases are still at hundreds of atmospheres of pressure. Once the bullet exists the barrel breaking the seal, the gases are free to move past the bullet and expand in all directions. This expansion is what gives gunfire its explosive sound and its often accompanied by a bright flash as the gases combine with the oxygen in the air and finish combusting. One might define intermediate ballistics as the study of gases and gunpowder particles in the immediate vanity of the firearm.Terminal ballistics studies the behaviour and effects of a projectile when it hits and transfers its energy to a target. The target can take on any form, for example when referring to the effect of a bullet on the human body, it is termed wound ballistics. The primary way a bullet causes damage is through the permanent cavity it leaves. The hole that is created as the bullet passes through the skin, bone or flesh. A secondary way that a bullet causes damage is by the temporary cavity it causes when the bullet hits soft tissue.Examples of cases that used the ballistic unitThe ballistic unit is very helpful when a crime or murder occurs because it helps to identify the type of weapon used and to help catch the offender. The following examples are cases where the ballistic unit played a role in:A famous case in South Africa that used the ballistic unit is Jayde Panayiotal’s case. She was married to Christopher Panayiotal who was the mastermind behind her death. Her body was found with a bullet wound. The ballistic unit could determine the suspect after all the analysis was doneAnother famous case that made history was The Mkhize family murder in KZN. The police held a 51-year-old man and his two sons, 28 and 30, for shooting 7 family members dead in early April 2013. The man opened fire on his own family, killing 6 men and a 3-year-old boy. The ballistic unit reinvestigated the shooting and saw that the 51-year-old man had an unregistered gun that was used during the shooting.A qualitative research method was used to compose this assignment meaning there’s in depth information about the ballistic unit and its processes including examples.Recommendations When it comes to the ballistic unit there’s very little recommendations or strategies one can give to help the unit achieve its best.Forensic science laboratories face several controversial issues, some of those are due to the increasing complexity of evidence and the greater demands put on labs. A solution to this may be to may more forensic science laboratories to accommodate more cases, this will also increase the chances of people getting employment. This serves as an advantage to the unemployment rate.The unit should establish demonstration projects to educate junior ballistic workers and to highlight successful strategic uses. This ensures that people know they’re work and work productivity increases.Delays should be addressed in processing ballistic evidence and identifying hits through better cooperation amongst all stakeholders (that is, beyond crime laboratories). This ensures good communicationProvide training and technical assistance to local jurisdictions, host regional conferences, create websites and publication to raise the level of professional activity.Create networking among criminal investigators, firearms examiners and firearms technicians.Conclusion With the above information given we cam conclude that, the ballistic unit serves as a very important necessity in South Africa especially since the numbers of murder and other cases that deal with weapons are high. Forensic ballistics is the science that deals with the flight, behaviour and effect of the projectile. There are 4 categories under ballistics which consists of the internal, external, intermediate and terminal forensic ballistics. This unit has helped solve numerous cases, which is why more labs should be made so that we’ll be able to decrease crime and bring the offenders to punishment while getting justice for the victims. This assignment has used the qualitative research method to obtain information, it contains definitions, the ballistic unit processes from the time evidence comes into the laboratories till the suspect or offender is found. It also contains recommendations on how to make the unit better and more effective. Reference listClaridge, J 2016. Ballistics: The use and study of firearms. United Kingdom: Explore forensics.Close focus research, 2009. Internal ballistics summary. UK, 3 May 2009 closefocusresearch.com/internal-ballistics-summary.Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018. DNA. Britain: Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc, 10 December 2018 Britannica, 2019. Crime laboratory. Britain: Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc, 7 February 2019 Justicia Investigations, 1992. Forensic investigation. South Africa: Justica investigations, 6 August 1992 R 2005. Personal communication. Cape Town: Mark PhilipsRitter, N 2014. Study identifies ways to improve ATF ballistic evidence program. New York: Nancy Ritter.South African Police Service, 2005. About the forensic science laboratory. Gauteng: SAPS government, 20 February 2005 Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, 3rd edition 1979. Criminalistics. The gale group, inc, 15 May 1979 2008. Law enforcement and prosecution. Cape Town: United Nations office on drugs and crimeZook, A 1992. Terminal ballistics test and analysis guidelines for the penetration mechanics branch. United Kingdom: US army laboratory command.