Expect justice delays after RCMP lab closures, says lawyer

The federal government's plan to close three of six RCMP forensic crime laboratories is coming under fire from people familiar with Newfoundland and Labrador's justice system.

“I think it's going to delay justice,” said St. John’s criminal defence lawyer Randy Piercey.

RCMP laboratories will be closed in Winnipeg, Regina and Halifax - leaving those in Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver opened.

Piercey said delays for forensic laboratory results are too common and have already affected many cases.

“DNA cases, I'm doing one case right that involves the Halifax lab. It's delayed now. It's going to get worse,” he said.

The federal government estimates it can save $3.5 million annually by consolidating the laboratories.

Currently, the six labs specialize in different areas, such as toxicology, blood-spatter analysis and counterfeiting.

A Public Safety spokesperson said streamlining the lab services follows the auditor general's 2010 recommendation for a more efficient system and will help reduce a backlog in forensic tests.

Canada's first forensic lab was established by the RCMP in Regina in 1937. Since then its experts in ballistics, counterfeiting, biology and DNA have helped Mounties, municipal police forces and other agencies solve crimes.

Like many other government departments, the recent federal budget dealt a blow to the RCMP, cutting $192 million from the force's annual budget.