A Warrnambool magistrate says a lack of state government funding is to blame for lengthy sentencing delays.
Jason Twaddle, 43, of Terang, waited 17 months to be sentenced for drug trafficking due to a large backlog at the police testing facility.
In May 2017, he was found with 12 grams of ice in his shoe and a number of pieces of paper believed to be a tick list. He was charged with trafficking ice.
But Twaddle did not concede the substance found in the deal bags was ice or that the pieces of paper were his.
The evidence was sent to the police testing facility, but the results weren’t returned for many months and caused significant delays in the case.
Evidence is analysed at the Victoria Police Forensic Services Centre in Macleod – about 300 kilometres from Warrnambool.
Twaddle was eventually found guilty and he appeared in Warrnambool Magistrates Court on Tuesday – 17 months after being charged.
He was placed on a 12 month community corrections order.
Magistrate Jon Klestadt said the case was delayed for two reasons: because Twaddle refused to accept responsibility and the state government wasn’t prepared to “adequately fund law enforcement processes to allow for speedy analysis”.
“They beat their chest about police numbers but these delays are a result of inadequate police resources,” he said.
“It is an issue that has persisted for decades and each major party bears the responsibility.”
Police Minister Lisa Neville said the government had recently funded two new regional forensic hubs, located in Morwell and Ballarat West, and three mobile forensic labs.
The Ballarat forensic hub will service Western Victoria.
Construction commenced on Wednesday and the hub is expected to open in April next year.
Victoria Police forensic services executive director John Doherty said once the facility was complete, some of the most commonly encountered forensic evidence would no longer need to travel to Macleod.
The Ballarat hub will have 12 new staff who will recover evidence and conduct preliminary analyses across a range of forensic areas, including biological, chemical, digital, botanical, and fingerprint services.
Meanwhile, the three new mobile labs will give police investigators faster access to critical information at major crime scenes - including terrorism events – across Victoria.
Previously, samples, documents and other evidence was taken from crime scenes and transported back to the forensic headquarters in Macleod for testing, which could take hours and slow down investigations.
The mobile labs will allow evidence to be tested at the scene of the crime within an hour.
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