Stopping road traffic tests is just the tip of the iceberg, warns scientists' union

Stopping road traffic tests is just the tip of the iceberg, warns scientists' union

Responding to news that the Forensic Science Service has stopped processing blood and urine samples in motoring cases, Prospect has said far more serious crime investigations would soon be disrupted for the same reason.

On behalf of 1,600 FSS staff, Prospect branch president Alan Organ said: “It beggars belief that the conviction of drink drivers is at best put on hold and at worst put at risk by the complete failure to reproduce a highly successful public service.

“This exposes the government’s plans for the farce they are. If it is impossible to provide a smooth transition to alternative providers for road traffic accident alcohol analysis what is the likely outcome for more complex investigations linked to rapes and murders?

“The government’s proposals to close FSS appear to be based on blind faith rather than a reasoned and planned transition to the private sector. Our fear that cost will determine justice in the UK has become all too real.”

Prospect has been seeking talks with government officials since the closure was announced, without consultation with staff or stakeholders, at the end of last year.

The union has already voiced fears over the impact on legacy ‘cold’ cases and warned that private sector providers cannot be expected to maintain FSS’ research activities without a guaranteed financial return.

Said Organ: “Instead of waiting for the cost saving measures already underway to bed down, the government is determined to create a complex market where police forces, already struggling to make budget cuts, will have to develop their own capacity for analysis and support in forensics, multiplying duplication across the board.”

The FSS road traffic accident alcohol analytical service was delivered from FSS’ Chorley laboratory, which is due to close at the end of March under a cost cutting programme put on place under the last government.

FSS had intended to transfer all the equipment and training staff to London to maintain a consistent and quality service. But, following December’s announcement of the planned closure of the entire service, the Home Office were given two options; paying the cost of the transfer or seeing FSS withdraw entirely from the road traffic accident market.

At present the toxicology service in London only has the capacity to process a maximum of 50 samples a week, which would have led to a huge backlog given approximately 150 samples are received a week.

FSS does not have the staff or equipment capacity to take on this additional work without the expansion and purchase of new software packages. The Home Office was aware of the position shortly after the closure announcement. FSS will continue to analyse drug-driving cases in the usual manner until closure.