Have funding cuts to forensic science impacted the delivery of justice? Lords to hear evidence

On Tuesday 6th November the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee will question legal academics and major private sector forensic science providers on the UK’s use of forensic science in the criminal justice system.

The Committee will explore with the witnesses the differences between what forensic science provision is available to the prosecution and defence and whether the understanding of forensic science in the court system is good enough to avoid miscarriages of justice.

The spend on forensic science by police in the private sector has been reduced by over 50% since 2012. In the second session the Committee will question witnesses from the three largest private providers of forensic science services in the UK to assess whether this has changed the services they can provide. They will also explore what implications this has had for the sustainability of the market, especially in the light of the recent volatility which has seen Key Forensic Services going into (and then being bought out of) administration.

The first evidence session will begin at 3:25pm in Committee Room 4a of the House of Lords. Giving evidence will be:

  • Professor Carole McCartney, Reader in the School of Law, Northumbria University
  • Professor David Ormerod QC, Chair in Criminal Law, UCL, Law Commissioner for England and Wales, and Deputy High Court Judge.

Giving evidence to the Committee at 4.30pm will be:

  • Mr Paul Hackett, Group Managing Director, Key Forensic Services Ltd
  • Mr David Hartshorne, Managing Director, Cellmark Forensic Services
  • Dr Mark Pearse, Commercial Director, Eurofins Forensic Services

Questions the Committee are likely to ask include:

  • Who should be responsible and accountable for ensuring high quality research in forensic science that supports high quality delivery of forensic science to the police and the courts?
  • What is the scientific evidence base for the use of forensic techniques in the reconstruction of crimes, and their investigation and prosecution?
  • Where are the gaps in the criminal justice system in the understanding, and research of, forensic science?
  • Is the current market for forensic services in England and Wales sustainable?
  • What powers should the Forensic Science Regulator have and how well does the current system of accreditation work?

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