FSS lab closures a body blow to criminal justice

FSS lab closures a body blow to criminal justice

Plans to close three Forensic Science Service laboratories would decimate FSS’ ability to analyse the current levels of criminal evidence and leave expanses of England and Wales without public sector forensic cover.

That is the stark warning from the union for 1,300 forensic scientists and other professionals in response to news that FSS managers are considering closing down laboratories in Chorley (Lancashire), Priory House in Birmingham and Chepstow (Gwent) with the loss of around 500 jobs.

Prospect described these proposals as a body blow which would cripple the service’s position as the market leader and hamper its ability to continue to offer a comprehensive service from crime scene to court room.

Prospect negotiator Mike Sparham said: “Rather than support the service at a time when experts expect criminal activity to increase because of the economic climate, these plans are tantamount to inflicting grievous bodily harm on the UK criminal justice system.

“The closures will result in the lack of any public service forensic science provider west of Birmingham and the loss of the only laboratory in Wales. A reduced workforce will have to try to maintain the same high levels of service but with an even thinner geographical presence.

“Not only will the closures result in the loss of skilled jobs in these areas, but the continued demand for expert witnesses in criminal proceedings will require the remaining workforce to spend more time travelling to meet these obligations.”

Prospect anticipates the announcement of a further 300 job losses as more details of a radical restructuring plan for FSS come to light during the ongoing 90-day consultation period.

Said Sparham: “Today’s news bears out our members’ fears that the compulsion to restructure FSS is driven more by a desire to make it attractive for a future sell-off than maintaining its position as the leading provider of forensic science to the UK criminal justice system.”

Prospect is calling on FSS managers to rethink the proposals and for the government to provide a national policy statement on forensic science in the UK to provide a clear direction for the industry. To-date 37 MPs have already signed an early day motion (EDM 1623) against job losses in FSS.