Tuesday, February 14, 2012

FSS Report from the House of Commons

Here's an interesting read, the UK House of Commons report on the closure of the Forensic Science Service: "...Final conclusions

239. There are many factors to take into consideration when determining what has caused the dire financial position of the FSS. We consider the most significant factor to be the shrinking forensics market, driven by increasing police in-sourcing of forensic science and a forensic procurement framework that drove down prices and did not adequately recognise the value of complex forensic services.

240. The stabilisation of the external forensics market is now of crucial importance. For this to be achieved, the Government must do two things. First, further police in-sourcing of forensic science must be curbed. Second, the National Forensic Framework Agreement, and any successor framework, must be revised to reflect that some forensic science services cannot be commoditised easily into products and ensure that the true costs of forensic services are reimbursed to providers. Without stability through regulation, a properly competitive market cannot be realised. A shrinking market provides no incentive for further investment or growth from any forensic science provider. The success of forensic science providers and their willingness to invest further in forensic science will be threatened if action is not taken to stabilise the market.

241. The process whereby the Government reached a decision on the future of the FSS was taken on legal and commercial bases. If legal and commercial grounds were the only relevant considerations, the Government's decision to close the FSS would be reasonable. However, it is clear that such a decision should not be taken on purely legal and commercial grounds.

242. The Government did not consider enough evidence in its decision-making. The impacts on research and development, on the capacity of private providers to absorb the FSS's market share, on the future of the archives and on the wider impacts to the criminal justice system appear to have been hastily overlooked in favour of the financial bottom line. Examining the possible impacts of a decision after the decision has been made contradicts the concept of evidence informing policy.

243. Proper consideration should now be given to what resources might be irretrievably lost to the UK with the closure of the FSS, including the FSS's archives and the intellectual wealth residing within its scientists. We have seen no detailed plan outlining the transition and the future of the FSS's staff, archives, work and assets.

244. While there would be merits in retaining the FSS as a completely public agency of the Home Office that focuses on R&D, training of forensic scientists, establishing quality standards and maintaining archives, we are not convinced that the separation of forensic science research and provision would necessarily be the ideal solution, because research efforts should feed into and improve service provision. In response to this report we ask for the views of the Government and Transition Board on this matter.

245. The transition deadline of March 2012 is extremely challenging and we are not confident that an orderly transition can be achieved by this date. The Government should extend this deadline by at least six months. Extending the transition deadline would enable the Government to consult on, and determine, what its wider strategy for forensic science should be. The FSS should be supported during this period. The FSS transition should be carefully monitored to ensure that it does not further contribute to market instability or lead to a diminution of service to the criminal justice system. Continuing to support the FSS during this period may add additional costs to the public purse, but we consider that it should be seen as a price worth paying ..."

Click here to read the whole report.


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