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Key Forensic and Randox… Is there a future for a forensic science marketplace?

Written by: Alan Baker 28th February, 2018
I have been a professional scientist for nearly 30 years and owned a forensic science consultancy for the last 15 years. I liaise with police officers, scientists, court staff, barristers, and solicitors. I believe that I have a relatively informed view of forensic science in the CJS
I listened to the information presented by and to the Forensic Regulator to the Science and Technology committee on 6th February would make the following comments in relation to it:
The full commercialisation of the provision of forensic science in 2012 has, in my opinion, led to immense problems for the CJS and some of these were aired by Dr. Tully when she presented information on the above date.
The Randox “scandal” in my view exposes the very heart of the problem; the provision of forensic science is a race to the bottom in terms of price.
At the time that the Randox problem becoming apparent that organisation were an accredited UKAS laboratory for the provision of the stated work and whilst it would be wrong to guess what the outcome of any trial will be, the fact seemingly remains that even with extensive accreditation, major problems still occur.  It would be all-too-easy just to blame a few maverick staff.  Accreditation does not, in my view, necessarily equate to quality. The problem., in my view lies much deeper than that.
The ludicrous nature of forensic science provision is perhaps highlighted by the fact that Randox was also sub-contacted by other labs to do work and on occasions they also sub-contracted work to labs. This is the nonsensical nature of Forensic Science PLC in 2018 and I believe that the issue is solely based on political dogma and the previous and current Government’s obsession with privatisation.
My view is that many police forces currently working toward their own quality accreditation would much prefer that the provision of forensic science be returned to a national, Government-accountable provider and I believe that that is a view shared by many in the legal profession too.
The forensic marketplace is simply not working and is further evidenced by the Key Forensics laboratory which entered administration a few weeks. That company was the only large UK-owned lab in the marketplace.
A final aside is that the Regulator also has control albeit not statutory for the provision of digital services but I fail to see how that can be considered in the same way as forensic science. This is not to denigrate the importance of this type of evidence but in my opinion it should fall outside of the Regulator’s control. Indeed, given the importance of this evidence to the CJS I would respectfully suggest that it is reviewed and managed separately.