Cold case archive to remain as national resource

Cold case archive to remain as national resource

Prospect has welcomed news that the Forensic Science Service cold case archive will remain in public ownership when FSS is closed in March 2012 and its assets are transferred to the police and private sector companies. See BBC news coverage.

But on behalf of 1,000 FSS employees, the union has questioned who will have oversight of this national resource and the specialist scientists who maintain the historical data that is essential in securing convictions in ‘cold case’ investigations.

Prospect Deputy General Secretary, Mike Clancy, said: “No doubt our members were not alone in breathing a sigh of relief after news that the FSS archive will remain publically-owned was revealed in a parliamentary answer this week.

“But, on the question of how this will be achieved, we would like ministers to go one step further. A simple solution, and one that would provide the least disruption, would be to retain it in a reduced FSS along with the cadre of experts who preserve the samples and identify which will benefit from new forensic opportunities.”

While the announcement of the archive’s future goes some way to allaying one of the concerns voiced by MPs, international scientists, geneticists and other stakeholders in the justice system, Clancy said fears remain over the diminished forensic research and development capacity, the lack of properly regulated accreditation for forensic laboratories and the loss of specialist skills.

“Despite assurances from the Association of Chief Police Officers and the minister that the police and the private sector could deliver the breadth and extent of FSS’ services, the minister has been unable to provide evidence that there is the capacity to match the role of “supplier of last resort” in the case of a sudden surge in forensic work, such as in the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks.

“Since the declared intention has always been that FSS will not take on new work from October, we question the wisdom of risking the loss of other specialist skills and capacity outside the archive function, until private sector providers have proven they have the experienced staff and assets required and that the market is sufficiently mature to sustain their operation,” he said.