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NAO Concern over Forensic Science Oversight by Nick Boley
January 21, 2015, 11:01
Filed under: Forensics, UK Government Information | Tags: ,

The National Audit Office (NAO) have published a report, in the form of a briefing for the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, about the Home Office oversight of forensic science in the UK.

Whilst much of the report’s findings are well outside the scope of this blog, there are some which are not. The NAO is concerned that there is a lack of transparency regarding the level of forensic work undertaken in internal police laboratories, with particular regard to the volume and cost of services provided, and, more worringly, the accreditation status of these laboratories.

All external providers of forensic services to police forces must hold accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 for the work they carry out. Internal providers are also meant to hold such accreditation, but not all have achieved it yet. The report notes that the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) has no powers to monitor this and ensure compliance, in contrast to the Regulator’s powers with regard to external providers. This has implications for the quality of work carried out in some laboratories, where it can not be independently demonstrated to be of the quality demanded. This could be detrimental, potentially, for the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

It is always recommended that analytical measurements should be covered by accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 so that confidence in the results is higher, and systems in place to check the quality of measurements. The cost of implementing and maintaining accreditation is not insignificant, and the report highlights the lack of a level-playing field in this regard. This could undermine forensic science provision and lead to withdrawals or cost-cutting for external providers, which would also impact negatively on the quality of forensic work and therefore on the CJS.

 

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