Provision of Forensic Science Service in England and Wales

Provision of Forensic Science Service in England and Wales

Overview of Forensic Science Service

  • The Forensic Science Service (FSS) was a government-owned company in England and Wales that provided forensic science services to the police forces and government agencies.
  • It operated from 1990 till 2012 and was one of the largest providers of forensic services in the UK.
  • FSS’s main purpose was the analysis, evaluation and interpretation of forensic evidence collected from crime scenes.
  • Services provided by the FSS included DNA profiling, drug identification, toxicology, and firearm examination.

Role of Forensic Science Providers

  • Today, forensic services are provided by a mix of in-house police laboratories, private companies, and government agencies like the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.
  • These providers give vital support in criminal investigations, helping to solve crime by providing evidence that can be used in court.
  • They have a crucial role in maintaining the rule of law and assisting the justice system, processing more than half a million cases a year.
  • Working in this sector requires a high level of precision, accuracy, and integrity to ensure reliable results.

Quality Standards in Forensic Science

  • In England and Wales, all forensic science providers must comply with a range of laws, regulations, and quality standards.
  • One key standard is the ISO 17025, which sets out the general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.
  • Other crime scene-specific standards, such as ISO 21043, are also often used to ensure good practice in this field.
  • Compliance with these standards ensures that forensic evidence is robust, reliable and admissible in court.

Challenges and Developments in Forensic Science Provision

  • With the closure of the FSS, there were concerns about a potential loss of knowledge and expertise in this sector.
  • The privatisation of forensic services has been controversial, with criticisms related to potential conflicts of interest and quality of services.
  • Ongoing challenges include budget pressures, technological change, and the need for continuous skill development.
  • Advances in technology, such as next-generation DNA sequencing and digital forensics, are reshaping the field and offering new capabilities for forensic investigations.

Education and Training for Forensic Scientists

  • Forensic scientists typically need a degree in a science-related subject to start their career in this field.
  • They also require specific training which may be provided on-the-job or through professional development courses.
  • Ongoing training and competency assessments are important to ensure forensic scientists stay up-to-date with the latest methods and technologies.
  • The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences offers a range of training events, professional qualifications and networking opportunities for individuals working in forensic science.