Evidence confusion will harm justice: Prospect

Evidence confusion will harm justice: Prospect

Differing techniques and regulatory processes used by individual forensic providers will obstruct the understanding of forensic analysis, Prospect will warn at tomorrow’s Common’s Science Select Committee inquiry into the proposed closure of the Forensic Science Service.

On behalf of 1,600 FSS staff the union will say that by closing the FSS the examination of evidence from one incident could be spread among several private forensic providers or in-house police teams, leaving no one body with an oversight of the analysis process.

The union will warn that the present regulatory process for in-house police forensic facilities is not due to meet the standard for forensic laboratories until 2015.

Prospect questions how juries will be able to interpret different methodologies and the results of several forensic providers with no overview and differing regulatory benchmarks.

Speaking before the session, Prospect negotiator Steve Thomas said: “The union has warned that with police forces increasingly favouring DNA analysis – because it is comparatively cheaper and quicker than other techniques such as fibre analysis – the logical process would be for private providers and in-house teams to focus resources to meet that demand at the expense of less profitable areas of forensic science.

“Breaking up forensic provision and inviting bidding for each piece of work means the police are more likely to need to use several companies to examine evidence from the same crime resulting in a piecemeal approach. But our members tell us forensics is a puzzle and without being able to see the whole picture, and by losing expertise in certain areas, justice is at real risk of being compromised.”

Thomas also warned that the reports already show police forces are limiting the number of samples sent out for analysis to what they view as the best examples or are relying predominantly on in-house screening facilities due to budgetary fears.

“While the impact may be negligible in the majority of cases, where they have had to skimp on examination or items submitted for examination, they may miss evidence leading to possible miscarriages of justice,” he said.

“This risk can only grow if more and more private sector providers fail to make an adequate commercial return and withdraw from an already fragile market.”

The union will ask what risk assessment has been taken into the impact of the loss of unprofitable but critical forensic work as well as research and development for which FSS has a world-leading reputation.