The forensic Science Service is to close and dozens of towns across England and Wales will lose their magistrates' courts as part of the latest round of cuts announced by the Government.
The FSS, which employs 1,600 people and carries out more than 60 per cent of police forensic work, will close by 2012 and its work will be contracted out to the private sector. Its evidence was key to the arrest of serial killer Steve Wright and in the case of the missing girl Shannon Matthews.
The Prospect union, representing 1,000 FSS workers, said the decision made a "mockery" of the justice system. "Cost will now determine justice in the UK," said the union's deputy general secretary, Mike Clancy. "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."
The Crime Reduction minister, James Brokenshire, said the FSS had faced increased private-sector competition for police contracts and 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.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Justice has confirmed plans to close 93 magistrates' courts and 49 county courts across the country, saving an estimated £41m.Reuse content