Brian Rankin
Martin Walker

Member Article

Teesside academics express forensics concern

Universities could hold the key to the future of forensic science research, academics from Teesside University have told a parliamentary inquiry.

The Centre for Forensic Investigation at Teesside University recently submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Report on the closure of the Government-owned Forensic Science Service (FSS).

In their submissions, academics at the Centre for Forensic Investigation expressed concerns about the impact the closure will have on the future independence and integrity of forensic investigation.

They also suggested that there now needs to be a coordinated approach to research and development with universities at the heart.

The evidence submitted by Teesside University has been quoted twice in the final report which was published by the committee recently.

In 2010, citing losses of £2m a month, the Government announced the FSS would be closed, with its work being carried out by the private sector and individual police forces.

Prior to its closure in 2012, the FSS carried out the bulk of forensics work for police forces and government agencies in the UK.

The select committee report into the impact of the closure has criticised the decision saying it did not sufficiently demonstrate value for money.

The report also expresses concern about whether police forces have sufficient levels of accreditation to carry out detailed forensic work.

The report adds: “Perceptions of police impartiality are also important; Teesside University questioned whether the public would “be confident that their forensic provision will remain independent with the highest integrity” as work moves into police forces.”

Another key area of concern highlighted in the report is the future of forensic science research following the demise of the FSS.

Teesside University is quoted in the report saying that there now needs to be a ‘coordinated approach’ to research and development in the UK.

It adds: “The days when there could be one physical central research establishment may have passed but the strategic leadership and central coordination is still needed.

“Universities can and would be willing to work confidentially with police forces and companies and only publish their data with permission especially when the findings could have much wider relevance and impact.”

Teesside University is working behind the scenes to help ensure there is a future for forensic science research in this country.

Brian Rankin, the Head of the Centre for Forensic Investigation, chaired a Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education board which set a benchmark statement for forensic science education.

He said: “It continues to be clear that the decision to close the FSS was flawed and not based on solid financial foundations.

“The key position once held for UK R&D and innovation is seriously threatened as it is unclear if the remaining forensic providers or the police will provide significant investment for the future.

“However, there may be some green shoots. Praise was given to the police forces in the North East and how they procure forensic science as a group of forces.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Martin Walker .

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