Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report

1  Introduction

1. Crime is estimated to cost the UK economy around £50 billion each year.[1] Forensic science is a vital instrument for the detection and deterrence of crime, and the administration of justice. In the UK, around 85% of forensic services are delivered by the Forensic Science Service (FSS). On 17 July 2003 the then Home Secretary, Rt. Hon. David Blunkett MP, announced the Government's intention to develop the FSS as a public-private partnership (PPP).[2] The decision was welcomed by the management of the FSS, but greeted with dismay by the trade unions representing the majority of FSS staff.

2. We announced our inquiry into forensic science on 21 July 2004. Our aim was to investigate the likely impact of the Government plan to develop the Forensic Science Service as a public-private partnership on the competitiveness of the FSS and on the effective provision of forensic science services to the criminal justice system. We also sought to examine the quality of forensic science education and training and the supply of skilled personnel in forensic science; levels of investment in forensic science R&D; and the use of forensic science, including novel forensic technologies, in criminal investigations and court proceedings. We have concerned ourselves with the criminal justice system in England and Wales only and have not addressed the systems in Scotland or Northern Ireland, or the use of forensic evidence by HM Customs and Excise.

3. In the course of this inquiry we held five oral evidence sessions, during which we heard from:

  • Home Office officials and the FSS;
  • The Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners, the Forensic Science Society, private sector providers and trade unions;
  • The Association of Chief Police Officers and academics;
  • The Crown Prosecution Service, the Bar Council and a Crown Court judge; and
  • The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Reducing Organised and International Crime, Police Science and Technology, Anti-Drugs Co-Ordination and International and European Issues.

The transcripts of these sessions are published with this Report, together with the 34 written submissions received in response to our call for evidence and requests for supplementary information. We are grateful to all those who have contributed to this inquiry and would also like to place on record our thanks to our specialist advisers: David Blakey, formerly one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary; and Professor David Barclay, formerly Head of Physical Evidence, National Crime and Operations Faculty.

1   Safety in Numbers, Audit Commission, 1998 Back

2   17 Jul 2003: Column 62WS Back

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