Heed forensic warnings

Government must listen to Forensic science warnings

A proper strategy for forensic science, called for by MPs today (Thursday), is long overdue, says Prospect union.

Prospect represented more than 1,000 members at the publicly owned Forensic Science Service who lost their jobs when it was closed in March 2012. The union warned at the time that this was an ill-informed political decision in an already fragile forensics market.

The highly critical report from the science and technology select committee condemns the government's current 'hands-off' approach, which threatens the ability of the remaining private forensic science providers to deliver.

Sue Ferns, Director of Communications and Research, said: "Today's report vindicates Prospect's warnings when the FSS was closed. We have seen the haemorrhage of highly qualified scientists with years of training and experience, and the MPs themselves acknowledge this loss of intellectual wealth. We agree that the Government is wrong to assume such expertise can be built up quickly.

"We also back the observation that leaving police forces to conduct their own forensic science is a threat to impartiality. Our members who lost their jobs warned the Government two years ago that miscarriages of justice will be a major risk.

"The Government must now listen to the select committee and set up a working group to review the accounting practices of police forces who conduct their forensic investigations in-house to ensure consistency and standardisation. It must also listen to the committee's concerns about the risks of short-term contracts to private providers in an unstable market."

Prospect also backs the report's emphasis on the chronic lack of central funding for research in forensic science. "The current procurement model fails to motivate private providers to invest in specialist skills," said Ferns. "The Government must act now to mitigate the dreadful damage it has already wreaked on forensic science by improving regulation, investing in R&D and bringing back the skills that were lost when FSS was closed. If it ignores the report, justice will not be done on its watch."