Forensic Science in the UK: response by University of Leicester forensic scientist to Science and Technology Committee inquiry into closure of the FSS

The Science and Technology Committee has published the results of a follow-up inquiry into the closure of the Forensic Science Service (FSS). Read more about this here:

Expert comment on the matter has now been offered by Dr John Bond OBE, senior lecturer in forensic science at the University of Leicester Department of Chemistry and co-lead of the Alec Jeffreys Forensic Science Institute at the University.

The Government's decision to close the Forensic Science Service has caused much debate in the security world

The Government’s decision to close the Forensic Science Service has caused much debate in the security world

This is what Dr John Bond OBE has to say…

“It comes as no surprise to me that, two years on from the closure of the Forensic Science Service (FSS), the Science and Technology Committee continues to be concerned over forensic science provision in the UK.

“The closure of the FSS in 2012 showed a remarkable lack of appreciation by the Government over what was happening across the public sector as a result of budget cuts and austerity. Like any other public body, the police service looked to save money and escalated a trend that had been simmering away for some years. That is, why not undertake ‘low level’ forensic work themselves rather than pay for it? This has led to an expansion of evidence recovery and screening work by police forces, removing this from the (now private) forensic providers.

“Not only has this led to unpredictable revenue for the forensic providers but it has has placed an increased burden on shrinking police resources to undertake this forensic examination work themselves.

“The Committee acknowledges the work of the Forensic Regulator in ensuring that all labs undertaking forensic work meet minimum standards, but also acknowledges the difficulties some police forces are having in meeting these standards.

“A cornerstone of good forensic scientific practice is to have those analysing and interpreting forensic evidence independent and remote from those prosecuting, something recognised in the US National Academy of Sciences report on Strengthening Forensics in 2009.

Dr John Bond OBE. Photo: University of Leicester

Dr John Bond OBE. Photo: University of Leicester

“Having more and more work undertaken within police premises by those working alongside investigators can only encourage the suggestion that the forensic process is not truly independent.”

In desperate need of a new strategy

“I would agree with the committee that forensic science in this country now desperately needs a strategy, along with adequate funding to police forces to purchase their forensic science needs, which are based on what is proven to provide good and cost-effective evidence.

“I would also endorse the comment made by the committee with regard to the lack of investment in forensic science research, although work is now in hand to address this through the Government-sponsored Technology Strategy Board which, earlier this year, set up a Forensic Science Special Interest Group.

“I sit on the Steering Committee for this Group and we are actively pursuing current issues in forensic science, including quality standards as well as research funding. Last month, the Group held a well-attended meeting at the University of Leicester to pursue these issues with local police forces, academics and the private sector.”

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