CSI chief condemns forensic cuts

America's top forensic scientist has warned that axing the UK's Forensic Science Service (FSS) will increase the risk of miscarriages of justice.

Joseph Bono, president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, in effect the US' most senior CSI, has written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, urging them to stop the planned closure of the FSS which is reportedly losing £2m a month. He says that handing over forensic science responsibilities to an untested privatised system will have “serious repercussions” for Britain's next major case and is not in the best interest of its citizens.

Dr Bono's intervention comes after a number of leading forensic scientists wrote a letter condemning the closure in The Times. The government faces growing international criticism for axing the FSS, an organisation which has led the world in forensic science research including pioneering DNA analysis. In his letter, Dr Bono writes: “To take the expertise currently available to the people of the UK through the FSS and move it into an untested system is tenuous at best. Any new system “might work”; the FSS “does work”.

The FSS provides more than 60 per cent of the country’s forensic analysis; the rest is provided by a number of highly regarded private companies, some smaller ones, and most controversially, an increasing number of police laboratories, which have proliferated as forces try to cut costs. A lack of economic regulation within the industry has allowed private companies to undercut the FSS and cherry pick the most profitable services.

A number of eminent forensic scientists have privately expressed concerns to the IoS about the expansion of police labs - where scientists working for the force rather than independent scientists examine the evidence - which is likely to continue if the FSS shuts. They say police increasingly favour DNA analysis to the exclusion of all other evidence, partly because it is cheaper and quicker than other techniques like fibre analysis, which private companies will lap up while axing less profitable areas of forensic science. This means police are more likely to use several companies to examine evidence from the same crime, leading to a piecemeal approach that jeopardises justice, warn scientists.

Dr Bono told the IoS: “Forensic science is the puzzle. It is a way to investigate the world around us to come up with the answers. This involves sitting down with colleagues and formulating answers to questions which relate to violations in the law and present that information reliably and accurately in court. If you split this process up then you won’t see the whole puzzle. If the FSS folds, you will lose the expertise from one place, and compromise justice for people in the UK.”

Professor Jim Fraser, director of the Centre for Forensic Science at Strathclyde University, believes the FSS was forced into an unstable and fragile market by the Government without any economic regulation or clear business plan which has resulted in its gradual downfall. “The role of the current forensic science regulator is confined to standards which is necessary for high quality provision but not sufficient safeguard against the vagaries of the private market. Furthermore, there is extensive evidence that those in the criminal justice system who use forensic science - police and lawyers - have very limited understanding of how to use it effectively…I can see no reason in principle why private sector forensic science cannot provide an adequate service. But I have grave concerns about the current situation in England and Wales where it appears that the combination of an unregulated market and poorly informed users will increase the likelihood of miscarriages of justice.”

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines