Forensics threat to criminal cases

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Published: Wednesday 21st January 2015 by The News Editor

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Criminal cases could be delayed or even collapse because police forces are doing more forensics work themselves since the service was privatised three years ago, a report has warned.

The work of the forensics services since the Forensic Science Service (FSS) was shut down in March 2012 has come in for criticism in a review by the National Audit Office (NAO.

The watchdog said there had been a shift from the use of external private suppliers to carry out forensics work, in favour of police using their own in-house laboratories, which could undermine the market.

“If suppliers did pull out of the market this could present a risk of service interruption, and lack of capacity could hold up criminal cases or cause them to collapse,” the report said.

“Longer term, private sector suppliers told us that declining profits could make it difficult to invest sufficiently in research and development.”

The finding is one of a number contained within the report, which was carried out after a request from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

The committee warned a year after the FSS was closed down that a proper strategy for forensic science was needed to ensure criminals are not allowed to avoid conviction.

It accused the Government of being slow to recognise the wider impact on the criminal justice system of shutting the FSS, which had provided forensic science services to the police forces and government agencies of England and Wales, as well as other countries.

The NAO interviewed staff at the Home Office, police force representatives and private sector companies among others when drawing up its report.

It found that information available publicly on forensics spending is limited, and said the Home Office has little data on forensic services purchased outside its framework.

The Audit Office also said the forensic science regulator has no statutory powers to enforce laboratories to comply with its quality standards.

The Home Office had still not produced a strategy for forensics by the end of last year, despite a commitment to do so, the report found.

Published: Wednesday 21st January 2015 by The News Editor

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