The Forensic Science Service - Science and Technology Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 132-228)

Dr Simon Bramble, , Roger Coe-Salazar, Gary Pugh and Chief Constable Chris Sims

30 March 2011

Q132 Chair: Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you for coming to see us this morning. I am not sure how much of the previous session you heard, but we are covering a number of questions based upon some of the evidence that you submitted and some derived from other people's evidence. First of all, for the record, I would be grateful if you would introduce yourselves.

Dr Bramble: My name is Simon Bramble. I am currently head of Police Science and Forensics at the NPIA. I started my career at the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory 20 years ago. In 1996, I found myself in the FSS. In 2007, I moved to my current position. I am currently responsible for supporting the Police Service in running national services around the DNA Database, forensic pathology and also supporting the police on business change with the Forensics21 programme.

Roger Coe-Salazar: Good morning. My name is Roger Coe-Salazar. I am the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS South East region. I also sit as a CPS representative on the Forensic Science Advisory Council in support of the regulator.

Gary Pugh: I am Gary Pugh. I am the director of Forensic Services in the Metropolitan Police and I currently chair the National DNA Database Strategy Board. Previously, I was a director on the main and executive boards of the FSS.

Chief Constable Sims: I am Chris Sims. I lead for ACPO on forensic science. I am chief constable of West Midlands Police.

Q133 Chair: Thank you very much. What advice did your respective organisations give the Home Office on the FSS closure?

Chief Constable Sims: We work with the Home Office on a committee that oversees forensic science. It has slightly moved on now in the last couple of months, but we are part of that committee. For some time we have been concerned about the volatility of the forensic market. Last summer, we commissioned a piece of research through PricewaterhouseCoopers to look at the market and to help build a picture about its current strength and future development.

Q134 Chair: What were the terms of reference of that report?

Chief Constable Sims: I would have to look them up to give you the exact terms of reference, Chair.

Q135 Chair: Would you be kind enough to send them to us?

Chief Constable Sims: Essentially, they were to understand the current market and to look at possible future scenarios in terms of the risk that they may impose. That was the basic plan of the work. That piece of work came to fruition in the autumn, and a lot of the base data that decision making was built upon came from that report.

  In terms of your specific question, clearly, the decision is a Home Office decision. The discussion with ACPO was to get a view of the degree to which we thought the position was manageable should the FSS be brought to a conclusion.

Q136 Chair: So you did not press them to close it.

Chief Constable Sims: Absolutely not. Very clearly, it was not our decision. It was very much about the consequences.

Q137 Chair: What about the other panellists?

Gary Pugh: I would echo Mr Sims's views. I also contributed to the PWC report and the discussions around that report in terms of the current development of the forensic market. It is also fair to say that we had raised some concerns with the Strategy Group, chaired by the Home Office, that Chris refers to, about the forensic market and its stability going back to 2007. This was not a new issue, but it came to a head and to fruition in the report that was conducted in the autumn.

  In answer to your direct question, I played no part in the decision but I contributed to that report.

Q138 Chair: Did you argue for it to close?

Gary Pugh: No.

Roger Coe-Salazar: Your question, Chair, was to do with what advice the Department provided, if I recall correctly. So far as advice was concerned, the CPS were informed about the proposed closure of the FSS right at the very end of November. The advice, and I use that word very loosely, that was provided was via the Attorney-General's office, which was a mechanism of highlighting the risks that would be presented to the criminal justice system should that closure not be managed in an appropriate and proper way. There was no further advice outside that.

Dr Bramble: I would like to echo pretty much what my colleagues from ACPO have already stated. The NPIA also had a place at the Forensic Strategy Board, chaired by the Home Office, and have been there for a number of years. We have been participating in those debates. Again, it wasn't anything new. To answer your question directly, the NPIA were not consulted over the decision to close the FSS directly. We did not have anything to do with the final decision.

Q139 Chair: One of the things that we are finding it difficult to get our heads around in this inquiry is the fact that there is a forecast that suggests the forensics market is going to shrink. The police spend on external forensic suppliers is expected to fall. This runs counter to all of the news stories one hears about the fantastic successes that the police are having. Why is this happening?

Chief Constable Sims: It is quite a complicated question. It is not straightforward. For one thing, the market itself was artificially stimulated during the DNA expansion fund period. Money was put in to grow the database, so the market had an artificial peak to it.

Secondly, it is a very dynamic market, and the composition of what we do within forensic science changes very quickly as the technology changes. An example is that not too long ago we would have bought from FSS and other suppliers all of our work around ballistics. That would have been a reasonably large spend area. As technology moves, as it is now an IT-based approach to forensics, that is now an IT system that is owned within the Police Service. Therefore, the spend does not appear in the way that you suggest.

We have definitely become hugely more efficient in the way that we make decisions about submission. The whole tendering competitive issue within the market has driven down unit costs which deflate the amount of spend.

The final factor, of course, topically, is that every police force is facing a 20% cut in budgets. In a sense, that has been anticipated in the current year and it is beginning to impact on this area, as it does on everything else.

Gary Pugh: I echo the point that there was a very significant investment in the DNA expansion programme that, effectively, increased the size of the market. It is also worth bearing in mind that, of the police force spend, and certainly in the Metropolitan Police, 60% of it is related to DNA profiling. So a reduction in the unit cost of DNA profiling obviously has a significant impact on the size of the market.

Q140 Chair: The volume of work is not going down. It is the issue around DNA in all of its aspects.

Gary Pugh: Yes. In terms of demand, certainly in some areas, we have seen quite significant reductions in areas like burglary and vehicle crime. So we are seeing some reduced crime flowing through in terms of the demand to forensic science providers.

Dr Bramble: To add to that, there is a change in the mix as well. We are coming to a threshold. There is growth in the digital market, whereas in the traditional market, through the experiences which have just been outlined, there is some movement there.

Roger Coe-Salazar: In addition to the procurement framework having driven down cost, there is also a perspective from the end user. That is that approximately 70% of all cases in the Crown court result in a guilty plea. It is a fundamental waste of public money, including using money on forensics, to build full cases when in actual fact you have a market—I use the term "market" very loosely—where 70% of it does not need a full file. It does not need full forensics. That has also happened over the last three or four years. There has been a real push towards proportionate file build. It impacts on police file builds in other respects as well, and very positively, but also having regard to forensics. Less is being asked for because, when it is asked for, it is asked for later in a greatly reduced number of cases. I suspect that that has also had quite a large impact. There is no reason to suggest that that direction of travel is going to change.

Q141 Chair: Can I ask you, specifically, Mr Coe-Salazar, have the Ministry of Justice and the associated community been reticent in ensuring objectivity and quality of forensic science?

Roger Coe-Salazar: No, I don't think they have. If by "objectivity" you mean making sure that the provision of forensic science is a proper, professional objective assessment of the evidence, then absolutely not.

Q142 Chair: You seem to have a lesser influence than perhaps you should have. Is it because you are not paying for the service?

Roger Coe-Salazar: We don't pay for it. I know one of the questions from one of the earlier sessions was to do with who the customer is and whether that is getting in the way. Yes, the paymaster tends to have a large say in relation to matters, but in actual fact you are not paying for something and the person does not deliver against whoever is paying them. They deliver an independent objective service. They happen to be paid for that from public money.

Q143 Chair: This is a complicated situation, is it not?

Roger Coe-Salazar: Yes.

Q144 Chair: When an investigation is going on, clearly, the police are the customer, but when it comes to the prosecution, as one forensic scientist put it to us, the jury is the customer.

Roger Coe-Salazar: It depends at what stage of the process you ask the question. If the police are the paymasters, they will receive that forensic evidence in. But, at the point of charge, the prosecutor has to make the decision whether or not something should be charged, and part of that evidence assessment is the forensic evidence. If we take the view that that forensic evidence, for whatever reason, is not properly impartial, or of proper integrity and has not been properly validated as a science, we won't use it. Therefore, at that point in time, one could argue that the prosecutor is the customer. If we then decide that all of those elements have been complied with, and we are satisfied that it is fair and just to utilise that piece of evidence in the court arena, then the court also becomes the customer, and, in due course, getting to trial, if that is the eventual outcome of the case. It rather depends at what point in the process one asks the question.

Q145 Stephen Metcalfe: Mr Pugh, you, I believe, said that the forensic landscape is now much more fragmented, with little or any wider strategy or policy agreed by all the stakeholders. Is that still the case? Is there a strategy or not in the UK? We have heard about the Strategy Board. Do we have a strategy?

Gary Pugh: Not across all the stakeholders. Certainly within the Police Service—Simon can talk to this—we have developed a strategy to do with forensic science, and we have been pursuing that for the last five years or so.

Dr Bramble: I will pick up from that. There was a strategic framework for forensic science. It was sponsored by Chris Sims's predecessor, the chief constable from Lincolnshire. That created a pragmatic approach to implementation at the Police Service level and generated phase 1 of the Forensics21 programme. As phase 1 of that programme began to come to fruition at the end of 2009, ACPO, with our support, did a review of the environment, utilising Northumbria university, which provided a wide consultation across the landscape. That enabled us to make important decisions about phase 2 of a pragmatic programme for Forensics21.

More recently, given the phasing out of the NPIA and the decision about the Forensic Science Service, Chris Sims has asked us to review and report back quickly to the ACPO Portfolio Board on 15 April this year with revised recommendations for any changes to that strategy. I echo Gary's comments that, in the Police Service, we have a very pragmatic approach but it is across the service. It does not involve the wider stakeholders in that engagement.

Q146 Stephen Metcalfe: I am still not clear what the actual strategy is.

Dr Bramble: The strategy is a very pragmatic one. The first phase was benefits-led. There was a whole range of opportunities. There was a statement. I can tell you what Tony Lake, the chief constable then, had as his objective. It was: "To produce a coherent and objective set of forensic services, skills and capabilities within the Police Service and Partner Agencies, which deliver continuous improvement in policing outcomes to quality assured standards, and provide demonstrable and increasing value for money."

  We turned that into a programme which created the framework under which we started to procure. We started to harmonise business processes. We transferred the National DNA Database from the Forensic Science Service to the NPIA, and we put in place the National Footwear Reference Collection and some other things. That was the first phase.

Q147 Stephen Metcalfe: That is the strategy that has been developed for ACPO rather than for the whole UK market.

Dr Bramble: Yes.

Q148 Stephen Metcalfe: Is there a strategy outside that, or is that what you mean when you say it has not engaged with all the other stakeholders?

Chief Constable Sims: Chair, the key features of our strategy are about quality, value for money and innovation. Obviously, each of those has a dimension that touches other players within the forensic arena, but ACPO is not in a position to set a strategy for providers, academia or, indeed, for Government. In a sense, we influence but we cannot manage the environment.

Q149 Stephen Metcalfe: Some people believe that the strategy should be slightly different, that ACPO should act as the customer, define its needs and then let the practitioners in the market provide the service, but that is not what you believe should happen.

Chief Constable Sims: That is partly what happens. If you look at the innovation work, we have got much sharper in trying to inform the wider market, which includes, obviously, an academic and overseas market, what is useful to policing and, therefore, what should drive innovation. We have worked on the quality end with the new regulator and are driving quality standards progressively through that part of the market that sits within policing and building it in as a requirement to that part which we purchase. We can be very influential in the strategy, but it is not for us to set an overall strategy because that is not within my remit.

Q150 Stephen Metcalfe: You have talked about quality standards. Someone is quoted as saying that knowledge of forensic science within the Police Service is poor.

Chief Constable Sims: No.

Q151 Stephen Metcalfe: You don't agree with that.

Chief Constable Sims: Of course it is variable. We have experts who are, probably, in their field the most expert people in the world. Equally, we have lots of generalists whose knowledge, quite properly, is limited to understanding what surface might yield a fingerprint and what a DNA stain might be derived from. I don't need 120,000 police officers to understand what a double helix is, but I do need them to be able to fit within their role as evidence gatherers and understand what their part is in a chain of delivery.

Q152 Stephen Metcalfe: Would you accept that there is room for improvement and that you are working towards that improvement?

Chief Constable Sims: What would you say good knowledge should be in the Police Service?

Q153 Stephen Metcalfe: That is a good question. It is the accreditation. It is how aware the Police Service is of the importance of the forensic services. Is it providing the same robust service to the police that practitioners outside the Police Service can provide, and how do you guarantee that?

Chief Constable Sims: You are touching on accreditation here. We are driving a process of accreditation through the regulator, through all of the work that we do, and requiring it of all the people that work for us through contract. There is a good awareness within the Police Service of capability of forensic science. It is the most dynamic element of policing, so there will be areas that only a few people understand fully and are aware of, but that is as you would expect.

Gary Pugh: Certainly, in my role in the Metropolitan Police, coming from my background as a forensic scientist and also as chair of the Strategy Board, there is a lot of investment in raising the levels of awareness of what forensic science can and cannot do. Also, there is a thirst for knowledge among investigators, who want to use the latest technology to solve crime. The Metropolitan Police has a crime academy. It runs seminars and invests an awful lot in training to a level in investigators so that they can understand the scientific tools they are using. I would say that the levels of awareness are high. My experience is that the requests to use new technology as soon as it is developed are such that it confirms to me that those awareness levels are, indeed, quite high.

Dr Bramble: Perhaps I could bring that alive with a very recent example. We have just been piloting DNA in a box. We have been doing that in partnership with a number of private sector suppliers who have potential systems for use. The CSI people from the police are out-performing the forensic scientists in terms of location recovery and getting a good DNA result, to the extent that the private sector is going back to look at how it can improve its training. That picks up on Chris's point that it is horses for courses, that good knowledge for a CSI is different to good knowledge deep in a forensic science laboratory where you have to understand the mass spec to elucidate the structure of a drug, for instance.

Q154 Chair: Let me be clear. Mr Pugh, I have just checked my notes, and you started your career as a chemist, not as a forensic scientist. You worked in the FSS where you were immersed in all of the cross-disciplinary work that turned you into a good forensic scientist. You couldn't have got that in a small police laboratory, could you?

Gary Pugh: No.

Q155 Chair: Services like the FSS, whether they are in the public or the private sector, are things that the police forces themselves cannot seek to emulate.

Gary Pugh: Certainly in terms of the scale, I don't think the Police Service is seeking to emulate that.

Q156 Chair: I just want to be clear so that I know where we are coming from.

Chief Constable Sims: You would, Chair, probably have to segment what the provider does. There are pieces that we do emulate and those that we never ever would.

Q157 Chair: And you wouldn't seek to.

Chief Constable Sims: No.

Gary Pugh: Clearly, with regard to some specialist scientific areas like toxicology or fibre analysis, those analytical testing services, and particularly the more sophisticated DNA profiling techniques, it would be wrong for the Police Service, in effect, to undertake that work. However, as to the recovery and interpretation of evidence, particularly in relation to adopting the case management process to which Roger referred, there is an investment that the Police Service can make to ensure that the whole system is more efficient and effective.

Stephen Metcalfe: I will come back to the accreditation point in a minute, if I may.

Q158 Pamela Nash: I would like to ask each of you this morning how successful you think the current forensic procurement strategy is.

Chief Constable Sims: How do you measure success? It has driven down costs. It has hugely and massively driven up quality, in terms of timeliness, standards and so on. Has it contributed to market instability? It probably has. That was the piece that we picked up and on which we generated the PWC work.

One could throw back the question and say that this was not entered into as a choice. It was a requirement that we generated a framework. Were it not for ministerial intervention a couple of weeks ago, it would have been enshrined as an absolute legal requirement that the framework existed. We do not look upon it necessarily as a choice. We had to do it. There was a legal mandate on us to do it. I think, in doing it, we have improved quality, we have reduced costs and we have generated a better relationship with suppliers.

Gary Pugh: I would add to that. The framework has brought a degree of standardisation into the commercial transactions that take place between police forces and forensic science providers. Over time and since direct charging was introduced for forensic science services, that commercial relationship has matured. The framework, in the way that it specifies the work that needs to be done and the amounts paid for that, provides a consistent and national approach to doing that. The framework has many advantages in the way that it operates in that all police forces are working to the same standards and to the same product specifications.

Roger Coe-Salazar: At the risk of repeating what the two people to my left have already said, yes, there has been a reduction in cost as a consequence of this. Standardisation has brought the benefit of quality. So you have a standard quality approach that is driving through, and that has placed us in a good position in relation to the new quality standards that the regulator is working towards as well at the moment. There is consistency as well in the production. The last point is efficiency. Efficiency is critical in terms of having a clear, consistent process where everybody knows what the required standards are and works to them. There is an industry that can sit behind inefficient processes and costs a terrific amount of money. So there has been that advantage.

Outside those, operationally from a prosecutor's perspective, we have not noticed a difference in the sense of cases being taken to court and so forth, but I do know that all of the other things that I have just said are things that add to and aim to provide efficiency because we are not wasting money elsewhere.

Dr Bramble: I would like to add one additional point. One of the other objectives with the framework was to spread the work across a number of private sector suppliers. We now have four organisations that are able to offer the majority of what the Police Service wants to procure, which adds additional competition. That is not to say that we are not continually looking for improvement. We recognise there are some frustrations, particularly with the length of time. Again, some of the timings in the many competitions are a legal requirement in terms of the 26-week tendering process and 15 weeks for the transfer of services. So these things are set in stone. Public buying is often a frustration to the private sector. We are feeding those lessons in, and part of the PWC report was to help us work out the next framework, because this framework comes to an end in 2012. We need to replace it. We want to take those lessons on board and try and find even better ways of procuring for both sides.

Q159 Pamela Nash: Thank you. I am not sure who the best person is to ask this question. I think it might be you, Dr Bramble. My understanding from what I have read is that most contracts have been awarded to providers usually for three years, which is a relatively short term. Do you think that this has had any impact on long-term investment from providers, particularly in research and development?

Dr Bramble: I am not fully aware of the legal requirements, but there are some difficulties in setting certain times on contracts. Perhaps Mr Pugh is better placed to answer specifically why the police may purchase on certain contract times. Of course, investment decisions to do with R&D are a different kettle of fish. There is always a danger of short-termism, but some areas of the business are, quite clearly, going to be around for some time. If they want to win contracts in the future, building in innovation for productivity and efficiency gain across certain sectors of their business is wise if the business wishes to continue, I would suggest. I cannot answer specifically why three years is better than five.

Gary Pugh: I might be able to assist. Forensic science covers a broad range of things nowadays and some of that has been referred to in previous evidence as "commodities". Perhaps it is better described as "testing services", which are relatively routine analytical functions. The routine processing, for example, of DNA samples taken in custody—PACE samples—would be an example of a bulk processing activity, as compared, if you like, with the other end of the scale. For example, you have very complex analysis in a murder investigation and possibly multiple evidence types involved. That type of case work is much more complex.

Certainly, the approach in the Metropolitan Police is that for those routine testing services where there are a number of providers—there are eight or nine in the framework—we are seeing significant unit cost reductions. The commercial sector is investing in automation. Therefore, the price is changing quite quickly. It is, therefore, better for us to go for a relatively short contract to take advantage of those price reductions.

On the more complex case work, we tend to have longer contracts because we are looking there for quite a different service and probably a different relationship with the providers who undertake the more complex work in homicide investigation and rape investigation, for example, in the Metropolitan Police.

Q160 Pamela Nash: I am aware that the framework agreement does not cover every Police Service in England. The north-west and south-west regions are not covered by the agreement. Does anyone know why?

Chief Constable Sims: I am sure others will probably help me, but what we refer to as the west coast, north-west and south-west, in effect, went to contract ahead of the national framework. In general terms, their arrangements are very similar to the framework, but they are not at the moment part of it. When they come to renewal, they will renew into the national framework and be fully part of it. If you like, it is an accident of timing that they went ahead of the development of the framework itself.

Q161 Pamela Nash: But it can be confirmed that they will eventually be part of the framework.

Chief Constable Sims: They will, yes. In general terms, their arrangements hugely resemble the framework because, in a sense, the framework was developed on the back of their experience.

Q162 Pamela Nash: Finally, Dr Bramble, I am aware that the NPIA will be closing in a year's time. Who will be overseeing the framework agreement and also the National DNA Database when this happens?

Dr Bramble: It is my understanding that the Home Office has requested that non-IT procurement returns to the Home Office as soon as is feasible. I believe that work is under way. That would suggest that the procurement element of the national framework, in terms of the skills and capabilities, will sit in the Home Office. Alongside that are the people who have the service skills in terms of understanding forensics and what all of the services and products within the framework actually mean. They reside with me at the moment.

As for the broader piece, at the moment my understanding is that the NPIA will be phased out. At the general level, there are a number of reviews that we are waiting upon from Lord Wasserman and Peter Neyroud on leadership. These will help decision-making processes, which ultimately will decide where the functions that remain in the NPIA may end up. That is a process, according to my understanding, that is going to take most of this financial year, I suggest.

Chief Constable Sims: Chair, we don't know. It is still very much up for discussion. Our understanding from ACPO's point of view is that different parts of the NPIA will migrate to different homes. Some of it will, perhaps, go back to the Home Office, some of it, potentially, will be within the National Crime Agency that is being established, and some, potentially, within lead force arrangements within policing. As yet, the route map is not clear and it may be a slightly longer route map than you have described.

Q163 Stephen Mosley: Forensic Science Northern Ireland has said, and I quote: "The ACPO-led procurement approach to date has been poorly conceived." They also talk about the negative effect of commoditisation leading to fragmentation of casework. To what extent is fragmentation of casework across different providers happening currently and do you have any measures in place to stop this happening?

Chief Constable Sims: I disagree with virtually everything in that statement.

Gary Pugh: There is fragmentation in the sense that there are a number of different providers providing services to police forces. I have no experience of the fragmentation to which I think that refers in which individual cases are being fragmented so that different materials are sent to different providers. That is certainly not the case in the Metropolitan Police and I don't know of any other force that operates forensic science in that way. I would disagree as well with that statement.

Chief Constable Sims: Chair, you could always have a highly specialised piece in a case that required it to go to a niche provider who was, in effect, the only provider. That has always been the case.

Q164 Stephen Mosley: It was some of the evidence that came in so I thought I would put it to you. Do the other two members have any comments on it?

Roger Coe-Salazar: Does it naturally follow that fragmentation is a bad thing? It is how it is managed. The proof is in the pudding here. We prosecute over 1 million cases a year. There is a distinction, as Gary has pointed out in particular, between specialisms as opposed to moving one particular article from one place to another, to another and to another. If, indeed, fragmentation is taking place, a risk is inherent in that and the risk is to do with continuity. But, if it is managed properly, then it is not a problem. It is like most things. On the face of it, operationally, from our perspective, if it is taking place, it is not creating an operational delivery problem.

Dr Bramble: I don't have anything to add to that.

Q165 Stephen Mosley: The other issue I was going to ask about, which the FSNI also raised, is what happens in serious and complex cases. They mentioned national security. When we visited the FSS last week, they were quite proud of the work that they have done on terrorist incidents in the past and how responsive they had been to the needs of the police. What will happen to that work in future if the FSS closes?

Gary Pugh: I can take that question. The Metropolitan Police provide the national lead on counter-terrorism within policing. The nature of the current terrorist threat is not similar to the previous terrorist campaigns we have had in the UK, which have been indigenous, particularly the Irish troubles. There was a lot of reactive forensic work there with a number of incidents that required a considerable amount of forensic input. The current situation is, fortunately, that we are not in that position and so the requirements for, as I call it, "traditional forensic science" are relatively low.

I am concerned, and I have raised this matter within the Transition Board on the closure of the FSS, as to how we access capacity and capability in the event that there is an increase in demand. But, at the moment, even with recent events, particularly the July bombings, this has not led to a massive increase in the requirements for forensic science.

Q166 Stephen Mosley: You said you had raised it. Have you had a response?

Gary Pugh: Not yet. We are actively in discussion over how that would be managed. There is not a separate dedicated resource for counter-terrorism. There never has been. We would look to draw on the capacity and capability that is available across the country. I would be reasonably confident that we could do that.

Q167 Gavin Barwell: When you were answering a question from the Chairman at the start of your evidence, it related to the external market. The decline that we have seen was the result of two things. One was getting better value for money for spend, and, secondly, there has been a peak because of the DNA work. In which years would we have seen that peak in the DNA work?

Chief Constable Sims: I think it was 2004-2005.

Q168 Gavin Barwell: Until?

Gary Pugh: The DNA expansion programme lasted roughly between 1999, I think, and 2005. Coming off the back of that programme and the grant funding ceasing, with more providers entering the market, because, clearly, there was a large spend in that area, that has led to the various efficiency gains to which I have referred and unit cost reductions in DNA profiling. The routine processing of a DNA sample from a custody sample, as I referred to earlier, has gone down from around £50 to probably under £20 now.

Q169 Gavin Barwell: The NPIA provided us with some figures for internal and external spend in each financial year from 2005-06 to 2009-10. I am not sure if all of you have those figures in front of you. Can any of you give us the figures for the current financial year or the estimates for the current financial year? If it helps you out, in 2009-10, the figures showed £185 million internal spend and £165 million external. You will have heard witnesses today and in our previous evidence session say that they believe that the external spend this year is down to £110 million. Are you in a position to give us figures on the internal and external figures for this year?

Chief Constable Sims: We are still collating that figure across the country. Every police force in the country is having to make some really difficult choices on spend. In my own force in the West Midlands, we have taken £40 million from our budget. There are very few areas of flexibility in a budget and forensic science is one. Part of that issue is about the spend decisions that we are making.

Q170 Gavin Barwell: So it doesn't sound wrong to you that the external market could have gone down by that sort of level. You do not have the final figures.

Chief Constable Sims: Would I like to spend more money on policing? In general, yes.

Q171 Gavin Barwell: I am sorry, but that is not the question I asked. Other witnesses have said that the external market has gone down from about £170 million to about £110 million. I wanted to give you the opportunity to say whether that sounds about right to you. I understand that you don't have the final figures.

Chief Constable Sims: I think that is probably at the lower end of what we would expect.

Q172 Gavin Barwell: What about the internal spend in the current financial year compared with previous years?

Chief Constable Sims: That is, obviously, going to be down as well.

Q173 Gavin Barwell: Previous witnesses have said to us that they think the decline in external spend in the current year is due both to the need to find savings and to an increased internal spend. You are telling us that that is not the case. It is just the need to find savings.

Chief Constable Sims: You are pushing towards this insourcing question. There are plans to do insourcing. It is very much around the margins and it is not going to have a huge influence on those figures until, of course, we get into the issue of the transition. Transition, to an extent, will depend upon a degree of insourcing to bridge the gap left in the market by the FSS.

Q174 Gavin Barwell: Given what you have said about the trend in terms of costs savings over the last four or five years, why has the internal spend increased over that period?

Chief Constable Sims: I can give examples of things that are now done internally. Take drugs analysis, for example. We used to do all of our drugs analysis through external providers. One of the big efficiencies, a thing called EDIT, allows us to do drug analysis within our own force area. It is the technological boundaries that are pushing the boundaries between internal and external. There has always been internal work. All fingerprint work is internal, circa 1900. A lot of the digital forensic work is internal because we have historically been the people with a lot of the expertise around that area.

Q175 Gavin Barwell: Do the figures from the NPIA include money spent on developing in-house labs, infrastructure and skills, or are they primarily just the money spent on doing the analysis?

Dr Bramble: Are you referring to the fact that they include capital spend?

Q176 Gavin Barwell: Not just capital; capital, yes, but also training of staff.

Dr Bramble: They will undoubtedly involve training but they won't involve any investment costs.

Q177 Chair: Where are those figures?

Chief Constable Sims: Where are the labs, first? There is lots of thinking going on about this but there are not vast numbers of internal laboratories.

Q178 Gavin Barwell: You just gave an example in terms of drugs work.

Chief Constable Sims: That is a piece of kit that you buy. It is disposable. It is a little bit like the old alcohol kit.

Q179 Chair: Can we be absolutely clear on this? When you look at your external spend column, that includes buying use of that laboratory space in wherever it might be. In your internal column, does that include buildings, overheads and administration, or is it just the analytical work? Can we have a straight answer to that, please?

Chief Constable Sims: Yes, of course you can. Yes, of course it does. It is the whole package.

Q180 Chair: That is the whole package.

Chief Constable Sims: Yes.

Q181 Chair: Including capital spend.

Chief Constable Sims: No, it won't include capital spend.

Q182 Chair: Where is the capital spend, then?

Chief Constable Sims: There isn't much capital spend.

Q183 Gavin Barwell: You are buying a kit, for example. I don't know how much that costs.

Chief Constable Sims: That is not capital. The kit is a revenue spend.

Q184 Gavin Barwell: So that is not included.

Chief Constable Sims: Capital spend for us, as I am sure it is in most organisations, is producing new buildings.

Q185 Chair: So you have never refurbished a lab or built a lab in any of those financial years in any police force.

Chief Constable Sims: In any force, of course we have.

Q186 Chair: So there are more moneys to add to that column.

Chief Constable Sims: But it is going to be tiny. I take your point.

Q187 Chair: In that right-hand column we are talking about a spectrum that ranges from £350 million to £365 million. That is the total expenditure. There is, in overall terms, a very small range of £15 million.

Chief Constable Sims: Yes.

Q188 Chair: We are talking about tiny sums. I am interested in tiny sums because those tiny sums are police officers on the beat, in which our colleagues are all interested.

Chief Constable Sims: Not if they are capital spend.

Q189 Chair: It is money being spent by the Police Service. We want to know what it is.

Gary Pugh: If I might assist, in terms of the comparison, we are comparing the spend on forensic science services—those are the costs of the services—and they will be commercial costs. They may include an element of depreciation. The internal spends are the costs internally of providing internal services, which include laboratories. For example, most police forces have laboratories that develop fingerprints. There is, if you like, activity taking place in the Police Service that utilises laboratories. Some of those laboratories may sample, for example, for DNA profiling. There is always a capability within the Police Service to undertake that type of work.

  To pick up on the drugs point, technology is allowing us to do things, as Chris described, like drug testing in custody, which is a far more efficient way of undertaking that drug testing than to send it to a laboratory. We deal with an individual there and then in custody. We possibly don't need to bail that individual and so on. The driver on the Police Service in terms of insourcing is about being more efficient and more effective in terms of how we deal with and investigate crime.

Q190 Chair: Where are we going to find out how much each police force has spent outside that left-hand column on forensic services?

Gary Pugh: You will certainly find the running costs of that. In terms of the capital investment, that would be difficult, because if you class chemical development—

Q191 Chair: If it is difficult, how do you know it is a small figure?

Gary Pugh: Because what we are separating is those things—for example, DNA sampling—from the chemical development of fingerprints and the processes that are undertaken in the Police Service. I think what my colleague is highlighting is that there is relatively little development of laboratories that undertake forensic science work within the Police Service.

Chief Constable Sims: You are shaking your head, Chair. I could find out, if it helps to give you a view, what the West Midlands Police capital expenditure on forensic science was over that period and supply that to the Committee. We are about 6% of national policing, if that would give the Committee a view. It would be a fairly small figure but I will find that for you and supply it.

Q192 Chair: That would be helpful. We will, perhaps, ask every other police force. I am just amazed that it is not included in the figures; that is all.

Chief Constable Sims: Of course, the supply of capital expenditure is not in their figures either. It is trying, I guess, to give you a like on like.

Q193 Chair: The figure we are trying to compare is the expenditure by the public purse and, in your paper, that is not described in its entirety. It is partial.

Q194 Gavin Barwell: To the extent that the external capital expenditure is relevant, they will charge you for that, won't they? They have to pay for that, so the price you pay them reflects their own cost.

Chief Constable Sims: I think the graph was trying to give a comparison of activity.

Q195 Gavin Barwell: I have one final question, Chairman. To summarise where we have got to, without having the final figures, your instinct is that a decline from £170 million to roughly £110 million in the current year sounds about right.

Chief Constable Sims: Yes.

Q196 Gavin Barwell: That is due not to further insourcing but due to pressure on budgets. If that has happened in the current financial year when there haven't been Government cuts—the Government cuts will really hit from the next financial year—what is your projection about where that £110 million external spend is going to go over the next three or four years, when, as you said, forces do face significant reductions in funding from the public purse?

Chief Constable Sims: I am looking for assistance. I think the £110 million is the projection for the next financial year.

Gavin Barwell: I am not in a position to confirm that.

Chief Constable Sims: I believe the £110 million is the spend on 2011-12. The reason why that figure was sought was to draw exactly your point, to try and get a feel for how forces would manage their budgets in the first and biggest year of budgetary cuts.

Q197 Gavin Barwell: We may probe that subsequently, because the impression I got from earlier witnesses was it was what they had seen in the current year. Parking that for a second, what do you see as the trend? This is a quote from Bill Griffiths: "In the previous year the external spend was about £170 million. That dropped in this current year, we think, to around £110 million." Let us park that for a second. I will take what you said that you think £110 million is the figure for the next financial year. What do you see as the trend in that £110 million figure by the end of the spending review period? Where do you think this market is going to go, given that you have several years of pressure on budgets?

Chief Constable Sims: That is the area that we are working on with PWC to help us provide forecasts. I don't think it will continue on that trajectory. What you have witnessed there is a step change to equip forces to move into a new era.

Q198 Gavin Barwell: So you have front-loaded the cuts in forensic science into the next financial year.

Chief Constable Sims: The cuts have been front-loaded on to policing, so the reaction has needed to be to make early decisions.

Gary Pugh: If I might offer a perspective from the Metropolitan Police, I query the scale of that reduction in this financial year. The reason I do that is because the spend in the Metropolitan Police this year will be roughly the same as last year.

Q199 Gavin Barwell: The external spend.

Gary Pugh: Yes. Therefore, I would suggest that the other police forces in the country must have made some pretty significant cuts to hit that £110 million. Having said that, there clearly is a downward trajectory on the spend. As the budget holder in the Metropolitan Police of all the forensic science work, we are in a difficult financial climate. There are other priorities. I have to fight my corner to retain budget provision for forensic science in total, but I am expecting there to be significant cuts over the course of the CSR period.

Q200 Stephen Metcalfe: As I said, I wanted to come back to this issue of accreditation and try and understand how important it is. As I understand it, external providers have to be accredited.

Chief Constable Sims: Yes.

Q201 Stephen Metcalfe: But in-house police labs don't. First, is that correct? Secondly, if so, why is that?

Chief Constable Sims: We are in a process of moving through accreditation. ACPO has agreed both the way that accreditation will take place and a programme to take it through in a way that is deliverable, not just from our perspective but also from the accreditors, because if, suddenly, 43 forces were to march forward and seek accreditation across everything at once, that would not be deliverable. We have agreed a programme with the regulator to take accreditation forward through policing functions.

Q202 Stephen Metcalfe: How long is that programme?

Chief Constable Sims: I look to Simon.

Dr Bramble: As to the programme, for 2015, we are looking for ISO 17025 accreditation on all the fingerprint chemical processing laboratories that Gary mentioned earlier. That is also a requirement in EU law.

Q203 Stephen Metcalfe: By 2015, all in-house forensic science services will be accredited.

Dr Bramble: That is their fingerprint processing laboratories. I understand that the agreement between the regulator and ACPO is that any insourced contestable work that currently is carried out by a forensic science supplier, if that were to be carried out internally, would have to be accredited to the same level. You couldn't just move it in and not accredit it.

Q204 Stephen Metcalfe: So, by 2015, the accreditation for services conducted in-house will be the same as the accreditation for services conducted by outside suppliers.

Dr Bramble: In some cases they are already, yes.

Chief Constable Sims: Can I say equivalent service? One of the debates is around the activities of crime scene investigators, which actually make up the bulk of internal spend. There is not an equivalent in the external sector of their work. That is still a debate with the regulator about how their work is managed.

Q205 Chair: Is anything built into the budgets, coming back to my earlier point, on capital spend to meet accreditation standards?

Chief Constable Sims: You can't manage it through capital accreditation.

Q206 Stephen Metcalfe: It is a revenue cost.

Chief Constable Sims: It is a revenue cost.

Q207 Chair: For a laboratory to receive accreditation, in some cases it may require capital spend.

Chief Constable Sims: Fine.

Q208 Chair: Is anything built into the budgets to accommodate that?

Chief Constable Sims: I can't speak for other forces. It is not into mine.

Gary Pugh: As you are probably aware, we have achieved scientific accreditation. There are a number of different accreditations. The scientific accreditation is the so-called ISO 17025 standard. It is an accepted principle that, where we undertake scientific work, we should comply with that standard and the Metropolitan Police has already achieved accreditation to that standard. I know that other forces are on track to do that. In order to achieve that accreditation, it is worth bearing in mind that you have to demonstrate effectively a track record. It is not something you get before you start to do the work. There is a natural process through which you go to achieve that accreditation.

Q209 Stephen Metcalfe: When will you have achieved complete accreditation?

Gary Pugh: We have it already. We have achieved it.

Q210 Stephen Metcalfe: Thank you. How many other labs or other services across the UK have achieved accreditation so far?

Dr Bramble: I would have to come back to the Committee on that. I do not have the data.

Chief Constable Sims: It is quite a fast moving piece. There is a lot going through.

Q211 Stephen Metcalfe: Mr Coe-Salazar, how important do you think accreditation is? Do you have any concerns about the quality of forensic science conducted in-house as opposed to externally?

Roger Coe-Salazar: I will answer your last question first, if I may. No. We have a neutral view. I don't mean that as a sitting-on-the-fence answer. We have, in many ways, no particular interest where that service provision comes from. We are interested in the end product and whether or not the quality is there.

Therefore, turning to the first part of your question on accreditation, accreditation is important. We have to be careful not to say that accreditation is the total panacea and anything that has happened up until now, where people have been providing services not subject to accreditation, must, therefore, be something that is suspect. That is not the situation. There are a lot of validation measures that have to go on, especially in new and emerging sciences. But, in terms of a progression for the future, we think that the movement to having a level playing field of accreditation is a very positive thing.

We do not hold a register of experts or anything of that nature. But, if we get something through as a case, and we know that the product that has been provided to us has already achieved an industry standard benchmark in terms of how it has been delivered, handled and produced, that is a good starting point.   Also, accreditation has now gained quite a lot of currency; it has become better known.

No doubt in the future, I can imagine, as we move towards this 2015 date, that, increasingly, it may be the case that one of the questions that starts to arise in cross-examination by defence practitioners will be, "Are you accredited?" If the answer to that is no, it doesn't necessarily follow, therefore, that their evidence is damaged or lacks credibility, but one can see the impact of that type of question. So pace is important here.

Q212 Stephen Metcalfe: As things stand at the moment, you don't have any particular concerns about quality internally and externally, and no examples of where one or other has—

Roger Coe-Salazar: No. There is no issue as to whether we get a better service when it is in-house or so forth. Our two fundamental starting points are the quality and time limits.

Dr Bramble: We must be careful not to fall into the trap that accreditation inoculates you against quality failure. As we have seen in the past, that is quite obviously not true.

Q213 Stephen Mosley: On that last point, Mr Coe-Salazar, you talked about quality and timeliness. There is also a question of impartiality as well. You can imagine that the police, if they are looking at evidence, might not look so deeply at evidence that might prove someone innocent as they do to prove someone guilty. Similarly, I know that Sir Alec Jeffreys has said: "If police were to establish their own in-house DNA testing facilities, then this would give them the power of arrest and sampling, the ability to test, plus potentially free access to DNA databases." There are some concerns from the evidence we have received about impartiality. Are you concerned about it at all?

Roger Coe-Salazar: I think you have to differentiate between impartiality or bias and the appearance of it. Certainly, for the criminal justice system, the appearance of impartiality is fundamental and very important. It does not naturally flow from that. We do have to bear in mind the X millions of cases over the years that have been prosecuted—I know there are high profile examples to the contrary—without root and branch issues around bias and impartiality. One could equally say, "If you had this", and there are pros and cons to both arguments.

If it happens to be vested within the police, one could say that the investigator is also conducting analytical aspects on forensics. Equally, if you put it into the private sector, one could say, "May there be an appearance of bias because they are producing a result in line with the people that are paying them, and they are a commercial enterprise?" You can put different arguments into the mix.

It actually turns back to Mr Metcalfe's question to a certain degree. I agree with Simon that it is not the panacea to everything, but accreditation does help considerably, because one of the fundamental parts of accreditation is a truly independent assessment. One of the four foundation points of that accreditation is to do with independence and being free of any undue influence. So it is very specific and UCAS are very experienced in looking at this.

Q214 Stephen Mosley: Before I let you go, it might be worthwhile saying that, when we were at the FSS, one of the big things that they talked about was that their customer was the jury, and that is who they regarded as their customer. The police probably have a slightly different view as to who their ultimate customer is.

Gary Pugh: Impartiality in demonstrating objectivity is very important. In the Police Service, I can point to a fingerprint examination which is a subjective, expert opinion, which has been undertaken in the Police Service, and certainly in the Metropolitan Police, for over 100 years and used in some of the most high profile trials. On the basis of fingerprint evidence alone, people have been convicted. The forensic community generally understands that objectivity and impartiality, whether in the Police Service or in the forensic science organisations, is all. If they lose that credibility in the eyes of the court, then you undermine the whole of forensic science. The criminal procedure rules and the recent work by the Law Commission underpins that objectivity, and I accept, effectively, as the head of the profession in the Metropolitan Police, that our overriding duty is to the court.

Chief Constable Sims: Can I just react to that first sentence? That first sentence challenges the absolute ethos of policing. We are about gathering evidence. We are not about creating a conviction. There is always a debate about impartiality around science. Yet you could take the same principles right through every element of police work, from the work of the scene investigator, decisions on scene management, decisions on seizing CCTV coverage and interviewing suspects. The same argument applies to every single part of that process.

We serve the public. It is the values of the Police Service that protect that. It is the fact that we operate in an adversarial criminal justice system that tests openly in court the product that we have gathered through forensic or other means. Some of the impartiality debate seems to me to be generated by looking at other justice systems that are inquisitorial rather than adversarial. Clearly, in an inquisitorial justice system, impartiality is absolutely essential because the evidence isn't going to be tested in the same way by a court. At times we slip into comparisons with other jurisdictions that don't have our basic framework.

Q215 Stephen Mosley: I don't disagree at all. It is just that this evidence has come forward and I wanted to make sure it was put on the table and confronted head on.

The last question is to you, Chief Constable Sims. Have you or has ACPO advised the Home Office to wind down the FSS?

Chief Constable Sims: I think I answered the Chair on that. We provided a report through PWC about the stability of the market. It was the Home Office then, quite rightly, that made the decision. We were asked about how we would manage the consequences. The answer I gave to that question was that we would work under the Home Office lead and do everything we could to make a transition that provided continuity of service.

Q216 Gavin Barwell: In terms of the impartiality of expert forensic witnesses, do you think there are concerns about witnesses that are employed by police or private companies on that issue?

Chief Constable Sims: This is more an issue about courts and how the courts take and receive expert evidence. I am probably going to bow to Roger on his expertise on that.

Roger Coe-Salazar: I am sorry, but I missed the very start of your question.

Q217 Gavin Barwell: Some concerns have been expressed about the impartiality of expert forensic witnesses that are employed either by the police or private companies. Is that something about which we should be concerned?

Roger Coe-Salazar: As a starting point, yes, of course you should be concerned about it. Whether or not there is a basis to be concerned is the main question. This issue touches on the conversation that we have just had about impartiality. I know that a very lengthy Law Commission report has just been published in relation to this matter, but all experts are there fundamentally not to give evidence on behalf of a particular party. They are there to give their independent objective evidence.

The reason that I state rather the obvious there is, because when one goes back a step and you get into the disclosure regime—we haven't touched on disclosure this morning—disclosure is a fundamental and the most difficult part of anything leading up to getting to a trial, if that is where you end up. The reason why it is so difficult and important is because it is a way of making sure that you have a fair and level playing field. Nobody is keeping information back that should be revealed to the defence so that you don't have injustice.

Part of that disclosure regime is a rigorous assessment by the prosecutor that is then supported once it gets into the courts system, because the court will case manage all the way leading up to trial. To a certain degree, it is inquisitorial in nature. The adversarial bit rather comes at the end, when you get to trial. You will get that really delving inquiry into documentation. If there is anything raising impartiality, whether it is provided from the police or by private companies, those individuals, police and private companies have to provide any material whatsoever to the prosecution that may undermine the case. Prosecutors have guidance booklets issued and there are standard procedures on how you deal with expert evidence. Fundamentally, you have that belt and braces in place before you even get near to the court. Then it is further inquired into if you get into trial.

There has been discussion in the past, and it is generally not that well understood, about commercial sensitivity. We can't provide this information—I think it was mentioned this morning even—about the FSS not sharing information and so forth. I am not adopting that point. I am just repeating it. Commercial sensitivity and keeping something back is a red herring. It has no relevance whatsoever to the criminal justice system.

If someone said, "We are a forensic science provider. This is the information and we want to get disclosure around methodology, the statistical analysis and everything that sits behind that", and the answer was, "We'll give you this but we are not going to provide this because it is commercially sensitive", we would not use that evidence then. The reason for that is that commercial sensitivity can be protected by the court. When we get it, we will provide it only if it is something that we are required to disclose under the disclosure regime. So it is not an automatic handing on. It is not pass the parcel.

Secondly, if it is handed on to the defence because we are required to as it may assist the defence or undermine the prosecution, that is given only for that particular purpose. If the material is commercially sensitive, the courts have powers to make orders to restrict any further distribution or usage of that material. The sanction is that it is a contempt of court. A proper safeguard exists to protect understandable commercial sensitivity. So you can build all that together and that driving focus.

I suppose the final point is that we must not forget that, because we are prosecutors, it does not mean that we are striving for convictions. What we are striving for is justice. We are equally interested in things that might undermine that. When you bring all of that together, then, probably, the answer to your question is that you are right to be concerned about it. I completely agree with you being concerned about it. I would not share a high level of concern that in actual fact it is a reality, but we should not be complacent. We should always be alert to it.

Gary Pugh: As we have moved into the safeguards around impartiality, clearly, you will be talking to the regulator. As we found in the Metropolitan Police, the adoption particularly of the ISO 17025 scientific accreditation involves an intrusive technical audit by individuals and specialists outside the Metropolitan Police, with a line directly to the forensic science regulator. In terms of some of the safeguards we might look for in the system, wherever the forensic science comes from, regulation is a means to do that.

Q218 Gavin Barwell: Thank you for your very thorough answer. I have one follow-up question to Mr Pugh. How does the Metropolitan Police Service demonstrate that forensic witnesses are impartial? What are the processes you go through to do that?

Gary Pugh: I hope I have partly answered the question. The adoption of the ISO 17025 accreditation means that we must have documented procedures. They are subject to external audit and scrutiny. There are internal processes and audits which also check that we are doing what we should be doing in terms of scientific methodology. Within the organisation as well, I have a role as head of profession which overseas all forensic activity within the Metropolitan Police in respect of meeting the standards of the regulator. We recognise that issue and we have systems and processes to deal with it.

Q219 Pamela Nash: I put my first question to Mr Pugh. Are you able to give the Committee any indication of what will happen to the FSS's archives?

Gary Pugh: The archives are important and, clearly, they are large. They are a rich source of material for cold case reviews, which you have seen in other evidence. We have plans in hand, working with the NPIA and under the transition programme, to consider how we can make sure those archives are preserved. Most of the information contained in that archive comes from police investigations. Clearly, individual police forces will have an interest in making sure that material is retained. That is both the case files and the material that is retained, like microscope slides and so on. We are very much on the case in terms of considering that in the run-up to the closure of the FSS. Clearly, the archive is not going to disappear. At the moment it is in secure storage. We need to decide how we manage that in the longer term consequent on the closure of the FSS. We accept it is an important issue.

Chief Constable Sims: The solution, to an extent, depends upon the transition solution for different parts of the FSS. For example, if part of the FSS was taken over and run as a going concern by someone else, then the expectation from ACPO would be that part of that new contractual arrangement would be the maintenance of the existing archive.

Q220 Chair: But ACPO wouldn't argue in favour of breaking up the archive.

Chief Constable Sims: No.

Q221 Chair: Let me put it the other way. It is a rich source, as Mr Pugh said.

Chief Constable Sims: It has absolutely got to be protected.

Q222 Chair: It is so rich because it is a single source.

Chief Constable Sims: Ultimately, it is the police forces that own the material. We have a huge interest in making sure that that ownership passes smoothly through transition and is still available.

Q223 Chair: As a single entity.

Chief Constable Sims: Yes. Well, it slightly depends on how the FSS transition goes.

Q224 Pamela Nash: Just on that point, Mr Coe-Salazar, would you have any concerns about the impact on the criminal justice system if the archive was to be fragmented?

Roger Coe-Salazar: To be honest with you, I don't know enough detail about the archiving and, if it was fragmented, what the options and consequences of fragmentation would be as opposed to it being with a single entity. I don't think I am probably in the best position to answer that.

Dr Bramble: We are in due process, as was mentioned. The NPIA is supporting ACPO in terms of ensuring continuity of service. There is a strand around the archive. As part of that process, all options will be looked at and the risks and issues associated with each option will be scrutinised. Clearly, some high risk would be to do with separating all of that material and spreading it across the nation, which would probably make that option a highly unlikely outcome. At this stage, all things are on the table because there are a lot of undecided questions about the bigger picture. We keep our options open, but it is firmly on the radar and firmly understood. It is going to take some effort to make sure it is dealt with appropriately.

Roger Coe-Salazar: Could I just supplement that slightly? It is a consequence point again. One of the very first questions that comes up in a criminal case around any form of exhibit is continuity. Has continuity been established? Can it be maintained? Is there integrity? It is called the golden thread—an umbilical cord that is running through the case. Therefore, although I don't have sufficient knowledge to answer your question directly, the consequence, be it fragmentation or single entity, is that that continuity and access must be maintained intact and properly secured. It is almost defining the answer by the output.

Q225 Pamela Nash: You mentioned cold case reviews and their future. When the Committee visited the FSS, they informed us that they often instigate cold case reviews as a result of new technology and information that they have available to them.

Chief Constable Sims: It is the police that instigate. Then the forensic provider would support it, but it is our material and, obviously, it is our case.

Q226 Pamela Nash: In that case, you would not have any concerns about the number of cold case reviews being reduced as a result of the FSS being closed.

Gary Pugh: Certainly, in the Metropolitan Police, and you may have had some of this detail, we have been very successful in cold case reviews, particularly in rape cases and some homicides. We are, to some extent, exhausting some of those cases now as we have moved back into the 1990s and the 1980s even to look at some of those cases. Probably, the potential for cold case review with current technology certainly is not as large as it was 10 years ago. We need to future proof materials so that, should technology take another leap forward, then we have that material, those few cells from which we could get a DNA profile, retained in a suitable way. Then, with the next generation of technology, we could apply that in the future. At the moment, I won't say that we have exhausted it, but we have certainly undertaken, as you are probably aware, a substantial amount of cold case review. We need those mechanisms in the future.

Q227 Chair: Finally, if there was a transfer of materials between laboratories and, indeed, a fragmentation, would you expect there to be more legal challenges emerging about the quality of the forensic science? Put yourself into the defendant solicitor's role. It would be an angle, wouldn't it, that you would pursue very carefully?

Roger Coe-Salazar: I am thinking back, Chair, for example, when the Human Rights Act came into force. There was a rush of challenges around the Human Rights Act for the first year or two years, and then the dust somewhat settled when clarity was brought in. It would provide an avenue for further probing by the defence. There is a difference between a legal challenge and a successful legal challenge.

Chair: Indeed.

Roger Coe-Salazar: For how long that would take place and whether there would be an initial peak of legal challenges, I do not know. Legal challenges sometimes run in fashions.

Q228 Chair: It would be fair to say that both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice ought to build that into their considerations as a possible impact.

Roger Coe-Salazar: I think that is a completely proportionate and reasonable approach.

Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time this morning. I am sorry that we have overrun more than usual. Thank you very much.



 
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