The conference, held every three years, brings together laboratory managers from INTERPOL countries across the world, with only two delegates invited per country. Colin described attending the conference as a career highlight.
“Presentations across the symposium were of outstanding calibre, with world leaders sharing their wisdom and experience,” Colin said. “I was pleased to be able to attend and bring information on the latest research and technical trends and developments back to ChemCentre and other Australian forensic agencies.
“A wide range of material was covered, ranging from counterfeiting, fire and explosives, drugs, chemical criminalistics and toxicology, to wildlife forensics and DNA, among other things. There was also a great deal of discussion about the foundational validity of forensic evidence, especially with regard to evidence interpretations and the development of standards and guidelines.
“From a ChemCentre perspective, it was good to confirm that the work we are doing in the laboratory here is truly world class. Many of the issues we deal with in terms of criminal investigations and providing coronial evidence are the same the world over, and ChemCentre staff operate at the highest international level.”
Colin said that the scale of work in some other countries was somewhat daunting.
“There were reports of Mexican laboratories seizing 9000 kg/month of ice (methamphetamine) – yes, nine tonnes a month. That’s a daunting amount of ice,” he said.
“In the world of drugs, there are new psychoactive substances (NPS) emerging that are far more potent and deadly than those we already deal with. For example, the illicit drug carfentanil is a hundred times more potent than fentanyl, a licit drug which has a potential for abuse. We expect to see more NPS emerge in the future and will continue to work with our national and international colleagues to keep abreast of the latest techniques in identifying and categorising these substances.”
Colin said another fascinating area of research that was showing great promise for future crime solving was DNA analysis using massively parallel sequencing technology.
“The ability to read DNA sequences is developing to such an extent that we will soon be able to tell so much more from human remains. Not only will we be able to identify the gender of the individual, but we will be able to give good clues as to what they looked like – the colour of their eyes, skin and hair, for example. This will greatly assist missing person and criminal investigations into the future. It’s an exciting time to be working in forensics.”
Colin attended the INTERPOL symposium in his capacity as Chair of SMANZFL (Senior Managers of Australian and New Zealand Forensic Laboratories).