Black Star Monument, Accra. By Rjruiziii / CC BY-SA (

Achieving SDG 16 in Ghana: the role of forensic science

Forensic science is the application of science in legal issues. It has proven to be a valuable way of understanding information that goes into identification, crime-solving, and other matters of the law court, including murder, sexual and physical assault, corporate corruption, cyber and food fraud, familial and litigious issues.

According to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Member States are committed to the promotion of democratic governance where peace, security, and rule of law, protection of human rights, and inclusive societies (SDG 16) are essential to sustainable development. SDG 16 is an accelerator of all SDGs and it is very critical to achieving sustainable development as it has a very strong linkage with the remaining 16 SDGs.

Global statistics show that millions of children lack proof of legal identity, go through violence at home or outside and cannot access legal services; over thousand journalists and advocates of justice have been killed since 2015; many women are killed annually, and people are forcefully displaced as a result of persecution.

The big question is, “what is the state of security, criminal investigations and forensic science in Ghana as the country looks forward to achieving peace and sustainability in various sectors”.

Over the past decades, the relationship between justice delivery and solving crimes, such as burglary, cyber-crime, corruption, document fraud, murder, sexual assault, familial and litigious issues, have been peculiar.

Ghana’s adversarial system has adopted forensic science in their mode of operation however we still live with many offenders of such heinous crimes because of impunity, and weak systems that are supposed to work towards achieving effective justice delivery.

The daunting effect of this system reflects in the underdevelopment of various sectors of the nation’s economic progress even though prudent policies are proposed and implemented continuously. It has resulted in the recent spike in crime rate and sophistication in Ghana with most of these cases skewed towards cybercrime, armed robbery, murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, and corporate crime.

The poor state of security, increased population density and the high rate of entry into the country by immigrants from neighbouring West African states is also considered as major factors of the increased crime rate and sophistication. Effective justice delivery, on the other hand, tends to decrease crimes, poverty, discrimination, bribery, and corruption, improve legal identity, and many other factors that bring development in a country.

It is no doubt that one of the best ways of achieving sustainable development is by making efforts to achieving SDG 16 by encouraging the inclusion of effective institutions that will promote justice for all and improve ways of dealing with crimes in Ghana.

Many innocent people have found themselves in jail, others have lost their businesses and opportunities, people have been victimized by armed robbers, and others have been traumatized for the rest of their lives as a result of falling victim to rapists. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of these crimes are free men because of inadequate investigative and legal procedures by the responsible institutions.

It is mostly seen that the vulnerable, poor, and marginalized people in Ghana are left behind with limited options when they are the victims of specific crimes and this has bred a lack of trust in the criminal justice system.

One reason is that forensic science has not been adequately utilised in Ghana and the police lack appropriate forensic intelligence resources, such as a searchable compiled and well-managed security-related information (national forensic databases), including DNA, fingerprints, footwear marks, ballistics and other evidence databases.

Zero tolerance should be the service provided to citizens of Ghana involved in criminal activities irrespective of status, with forensic science playing a major role in justice delivery. A Participatory governance style and strengthened judiciary system where citizens are involved in decision making prevent corruption, promote productivity and guarantee sustainability in the future.

It is recommended that as part of achieving SDG 16 and strengthening justice systems in Ghana, there should be a massive improvement and investment in forensic science. More state forensic science laboratories need to be built in various regions across the country with adequate staff and laboratory equipment. Legal practitioners should be given more education about forensic science to enforce the balance in terms of justice delivery.

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