Give forensic science watchdog tougher powers to boost standards, says Labour MP

A watchdog investigating forensic science labs should be given beefed-up powers to crackdown on scandals, an MP demands tonight.

Labour backbencher Darren Jones, who chairs the Commons Business Select Committee and sits on the Commons Science Committee, wants the regulator to be able to enforce tighter standards to prevent miscarriages of justice.

He issued the demand as he prepares to unveil his Forensic Science Regulator and Biometrics Strategy Bill in Parliament on Friday.

The watchdog “ensures that the provision of forensic science services across the criminal justice system is subject to an appropriate regime of scientific quality standards”, according to the Government.

Forensic labs carry out testing on key evidence for criminal trials.

Forensic officers collect evidence which is then sent for analysis in laboratories

Labour MP Darren Jones

Errors can have a serious impact on cases, potentially derailing prosecutions.

Mr Jones said his legislation, introduced as a Private Member’s Bill, would give the watchdog “more effective powers to raise standards”.

He told the Mirror: “The criminal justice system must be able to effectively prosecute criminals and secure justice for victims.

“Poor quality forensics undermines that process and, for too long, privately-run forensic service companies have failed to meet quality standards.

“As the Forensic Regulator has said, this has resulted in inevitable miscarriages of justice.

Samples are analysed by scientists

Criminal cases can often hang on crucial pieces of forensic evidence

“My Bill will give the regulator the powers to enforce standards to fix this problem.”

A briefing note he has issued to MPs says: “The Bill’s principal aim is to put the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) on a statutory footing.

“Establishing a regulator with the teeth to raise standards is a necessary first step in repairing the forensic services market.

“Giving the regulator statutory power is a matter of broad political and expert consensus, to which successive Governments have been notionally committed for more than seven years.

“This legislation is long overdue.”

The regulator is currently a non-statutory office funded by the Home Office – meaning that though it “has operational independence, it lacks statutory powers for investigation and enforcement”, it says.

“This has prevented the FSR from enforcing standards in the delivery of forensic services.

“Establishing these powers is a necessary first step in fixing inadequate forensic services, which have primarily been conducted in-house by police forces, and partly provided by private companies following privatisation of the Forensic Science Service under the Coalition Government in 2010-12.”


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