The United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), along with the University of Guyana (UG), the Guyana Police Force (GPF), and Blossom Inc. on Friday, July 17, 2020, launched a partnership that will see artists being trained in forensic art skills to assist in the investigation process and facilitate access to justice.
Forensic art, an artistic technique used by law enforcement for identification, apprehension or conviction purposes, is a key component of the response to violence against children in Guyana. The collaboration will focus on ensuring that there is a consistent skill set to engage with the GPF and other agencies that work on the frontlines of child protection violations.
“Partnerships remain critical to both preventing and responding to all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse. While Guyana has made strides to address these violations through actions at policy, institutional, community and service delivery levels, there is still significant work to be done to ensure that every child is protected and has access to transformative justice,” said UNICEF Country Representative, Sylvie Fouet.
“Particularly, for sexual abuse and related cases where children are removed from their primary caregivers, there remains a need to ensure that a medium exists to aid in investigation and reporting of the cases.”
Through the partnership, UG will play a critical role in the provision of forensic artists to the GPF, which will aid with their investigations, particularly in cases relating to children and adolescents.
Expertise that can be provided by forensic artists includes: composite drawing which will help investigators generate leads based on physical descriptions. For example, to assist in cases of child sexual abuse or missing children – including those referred by the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) to Blossom Inc.
It also includes image modification which is used to change and enhance a photograph in order to help an investigator and/or trial attorney; image identification, the recording of a person’s distinguishing features for future reference. Investigators can use this tool to identify suspects who attempt to change their appearance to evade capture, as well as in the study of cold cases.
Further, it consists of crime scene sketching which helps support the information shown in photographs of the scene and demonstrative evidence when any visible, physical evidence is recorded in legal proceedings. These are used to demonstrate aspects of the case, reconstruct an event, and illustrate what happened.
“This is a welcome addition in our fight again child sexual abuse, where oftentimes, in the many hard to reach areas of Guyana, including regions One, Two, Seven and Ten, alleged perpetrators would disappear into the interior and it becomes difficult to locate them with no support available to help jog memories of persons they may have come into contact with,” said Ayodele Dalgety-Dean, Director of Blossom Inc.
In 2021, there are plans to support the development of a specialized course of forensic art since such expertise can contribute to composite drawing, crime scene sketching and image identification, among other things.
“This partnership offers our creative Arts Faculty, students and alumni, an extension of the use of their talents and training into an area of forensic specialization which is not well developed in Guyana,” said Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Prof. Paloma Mohamed-Martin.
“This programme will help to give a diversified profile and fillip to the Visual Arts Department of our Faculty of Education and Humanities. Needless to say, UG is the people’s University, so anything we can do that helps us fulfill the mandate of making life better for Guyanese, we will within our means most certainly, do,” Vice Chancellor Mohamed-Martin added.
“The leadership and ranks of the Guyana Police Force recommit its efforts on partnerships and results for children. Innovation and investment in the use of local talent and expertise will carry our work forward,” added Commissioner of Police Leslie James.
Blossom Inc., the CPA, and the GPF will continue to work in tandem to support the investigation process, especially where crimes of violence are committed against children and adolescents.
This work complements ongoing investments in specialized Courts for Sexual Offences and Family matters, Child Advocacy Centres, graduate and undergraduate programs in Psychology and Social Work, the Venezuelan migration response and training in the GPF, all of which are actively supported by UNICEF.