I am utterly astounded, the government-owned Forensic Science Service (FSS), which employs 1,600 people, is to be wound up - closing by 2012. Crime Reduction Minister James Brokenshire said the Birmingham-based service, was losing about 2m a month and could run out of money in January.
This decision will "destroy a world-class body" and makes a "mockey" of the British justice system. The FSS gather vital evidence which is key to the arrest and conviction of serious villains, who otherwise would have thought they had committed the perfect crime. The company also provided toxicology evidence against Karen Matthews and Micheal Donovan which helped ensure their conviction for kidnapping and drugging schoolgirl Shannon.
The FSS had enjoyed significant successes and had a good reputation, despite one or two failures such as the Damilola Taylor murder inquiry where DNA evidence was initially missed. DNA evidence gathered by the FSS led to the arrest of Ipswich murderer Steve Wright within days of the discovery of his fifth victim. Including the cases of Ian Huntley, Paul Grabham, together with securing the convictions of literally thousands of other killers and paedophiles.
Evidently, cost will now determine justice in the UK. The government is putting its faith in an untested market to deliver forensic science at a time when it has never been more important to the detection of crime. However, the FSS had faced increased private-sector competition for police contracts and Mr Brokenshire told the BBC this was enabling forces to achieve greater efficiency. "They're seeing better turnaround in terms of the way in which forensics are being processed," he said.
The FSS has two offices in Birmingham and sites in Chepstow, Chorley, London, Huntingdon and Wetherby. In a statemet, the FSS said spending cuts meant police forces had less money for forensics consultancy and were increasingly taking such work in-house. It said it had raised such concerns to the Home Office and was "disappointed" that they had not been addressed before the winding-up decison was made. There is concern that if you're simply looking at the bottom line...critical evidence might not come to light and be produced in court.
In a written statement to Members of Parliament, Mr Brokenshire had said it was vital for the government to take "clear and decisive action" to sort out the FSS after it got into "serious financial difficulty". "The police have advised us that their spend on external forensic suppliers will continue to fall over the next few years as forces seek to maximise efficiencies in this area. We have therefore decided to support the wind-down of the FSS, transferring or selling off as much of its operations as possible." he said.
Private enterprise, which already mades up for 40% of the market, will now expand to fill the gap left behind by the FSS. However, there were concerns that commercial pressure might mean additional tests and analysis were no longer done.