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Pressing need for national governmental recognition of forensic anthropology in South Africa as illustrated in a medico-legal case

Gibbon, Victoria E., Finaughty, Chandra, Moller, Izelle, Finaughty, Devin A. (2022) Pressing need for national governmental recognition of forensic anthropology in South Africa as illustrated in a medico-legal case. Science & justice : journal of the Forensic Science Society, 62 . pp. 411-417. ISSN 1876-4452. (doi:10.1016/j.scijus.2022.05.003) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:98275)

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Forensic anthropology in South Africa is well developed in the higher education sector, with advanced training and research programmes. Despite this and decades of academic involvement in casework, forensic anthropology still lacks a defined framework and mandate at a governmental level. Therefore, the involvement of forensic anthropologists’ expertise varies markedly between cases, provinces, and among various stakeholders within the country, to the detriment of dispensation of social and criminal justice. The lack of clearly defined guidelines for the rendering of the service was exemplified and demonstrated through a recent forensic case. Here, contextual information was absent, and the remains posed a challenge to analyse, ostensibly due to missing information. Numerous questions were raised during the analysis of the remains, and broader concerns about the investigative involvement of a forensic anthropologist within South African casework were brought to the fore. Through the analysis of this case, we describe the deductive processes that led to the formation of an opinion that the skeletal linear defects were the result of taphonomic changes. In addition, we highlight how these efforts where constrained and each step in the process unnecessarily hindered. Finally, we demonstrate the capacity and willingness of forensic anthropology practitioners to be involved, and how, without governmental support, it is a great potential lamentably untapped.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.scijus.2022.05.003
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QM Human anatomy
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Chemistry and Forensics
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Devin Finaughty
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2022 13:31 UTC
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2022 11:25 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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