On 21 March 2022, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), hosted two regional webinars on Evidentiary Hearings and the Discipline of Firearm and Tool Mark Examination with twelve CARICOM States. The purpose of the webinar was to discuss the scientific underpinnings and legal evidentiary standards that are key to admitting firearm and toolmark evidence in courts of law.

In developing a strategy for dealing with evidentiary hearings related to firearm and toolmark examination, two issues were discussed. Firstly, do different tools create different toolmarks and does the same tool create similar toolmarks? Secondly, can an examiner reliably discern the similarities and differences in order to render accurate common source determinations? In addition to those foundational issues explored at the webinar, other key concepts such as the theory of identification were highlighted, to sensitize regional firearm and toolmark examiners and other officials on the evidentiary hurdles which they have to overcome in (primarily) Daubert hearings, or related hearings in Caribbean jurisdictions. In this regard, several relevant court cases were examined which served as real-world examples of firearm and tool mark related testimony and based on which it was reasoned that examiners need to be held to higher standards with respect to their work and the presentation of that work in the courts.

A total of 155 national officials, including 48 women, from Ministries of National Security, Police Forces, Forensic Laboratories, Intelligence Agencies, Prosecuting Agencies and Public Defender’s offices, Ministries of Attorney General and Academia participated. The webinars saw attendance from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The webinars were carried out in line with the 2001 UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Sustainable Development Goal 16 and target 16.4, and contribute towards the implementation of Goal 3 of the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap which seeks to “Bolster law enforcement capacity to combat illicit firearms and ammunition trafficking and their illicit possession and misuse”.

The webinars were sponsored by the United States and Canada, respectively, and form part of a series of regional thematic webinars organized and delivered by UNLIREC to prevent and combat illicit firearms and ammunition trafficking in the region.

UNLIREC, as the regional office of the UN Office for Disarmament, seeks to advance the cause of practical disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of its commitment to support Member States in their implementation of international disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, in particular, the 2001 UN Programme of Action on Small Arms.