Forensic science across England in state of crisis with crimes going unsolved

Forensic science in England and Wales is in a state of crisis raising the risk of crimes going unsolved and miscarriages of justice increasing, a new report has warned.

Forensic science in England and Wales is in a state of crisis ,a new report has warned.

Services that are pivotal to the criminal justice system are “in trouble”, according to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.

Peers suggest a number of factors had contributed to the problems, including a lack of funding and insufficient levels of research.

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The report states the “quality and delivery” of forensic science in England and Wales is “inadequate”.

It argues that unless failings are recognised and changes made, public trust will continue to be lost.

The report adds: “Crimes may go unsolved and the number of miscarriages of justice may increase.”

The committee’s chairman, Lord Patel, warned that the current situation “cannot continue”.

He said: “Our forensic science provision has now reached breaking point and a complete overhaul is needed.

“If our recommendations are implemented and the Government adequately invests in forensic science, our forensic science market can return to a world-leading position.”

Police forces in England and Wales spend around £300 million a year on forensic science services.

In-house law enforcement teams account for around 80 per cent of the provision, with the rest of the work carried out by private providers.

The publicly-owned Forensic Science Service (FSS) was controversially closed in 2012.

The committee said that, throughout its inquiry, it heard about a decline in forensic science, especially since the abolition of the FSS.

“We repeatedly heard that the system was not operating as it should and was in a state of crisis, presenting a threat of undermining trust in the criminal justice system,” the report said.

However, the committee noted that it did not hear convincing arguments in favour of resurrecting the FSS.

“Its loss was regrettable, but some aspects of forensic science provision, such as cost and turnaround time of routine cases, have improved in the last few years,” it said.

The report also criticises the Government over an “embarrassing” delay in giving the Forensic Science Regulator statutory powers that were promised in 2012.

It calls for the regulator to be given powers to take action when failings emerge such as issuing improvement notices and fines, launching investigations and rescinding accreditation.

The committee also recommends the creation of an arms-length body to be responsible for the co-ordination, strategy and direction of forensic science.

Last week the Home Office published an action plan to improve police forensics after a review found the existing model needs to be strengthened by addressing regulatory, governance and capability issues.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Forensic science is an invaluable tool for bringing criminals to justice and it is vital it has the confidence of the public.

“That is why we commissioned a joint review of police forensics with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and developed a 13-point taking action plan to strengthen the market and address quality concerns.

“We will consider the findings of the report carefully and respond in due course.”