James Brokenshire, minister for crime reduction, announced on Tuesday 14th December the closure of the Forensic Science Service (FSS).
Prof Sue Black, Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, University of Dundee, said:
“”It was common knowledge that the FSS was in financial difficulty as this has been evident from their financial reports for the last few years. However, the sudden announcement today from the Government places the UK in a difficult and delicate predicament. With an apparent lack of general consultation to staff and stakeholders, it is safe to say that the process has not been well handled and may even irreparably damage the UK’s reputation.
“The suggestion is that forensic science provision will be largely reclaimed back into the (cash strapped) police forces and with over 50 forces in the UK, we run the risk of developing a patchwork quilt approach which cannot be the best servant for justice. Whilst some forces will have the funds for certain services, this may not be true of all and this will be a very difficult situation to manage effectively and efficiently with any form of cohesion. There are also a number of independent commercial providers, both small and large, and it is essential that our provision and our research does not become driven by commercial and financial motives but solely by the needs and demands of the justice system which serves the public.
“The role of the forensic regulator is now more important than ever as the critical gatekeeper of standards, to ensure that the forensic science provided to our criminal justice system is of the highest order and supremely fit for purpose. I am fearful though for future research and development and I regret that today we may just have taken a very significant stride backwards. These are troubling times for justice.””
Prof Jim Fraser, Centre for Forensic Science, University of Strathclyde, said:
“”It has been an open secret in the forensic science industry for some time that the FSS were in critical difficulties as a consequence of their privatisation. Many believe this outcome to be inevitable given the lack of economic regulation of the market and the limited understanding of how forensic science contributes to justice by those who use it. Given this situation one has to question the validity of the decision to privatise in the first place. No clear rationale was ever been set out for this decision nor was there a business case or any clearly identified benefits. It is deeply regrettable that we have lost a world class organisation.””