The powers of the Forensic Science Regulator could be strengthened under new proposals unveiled by the Home Office on Friday (8 November).
The regulator sets the standards expected of organisations which provide forensic science services to the criminal justice system.
These quality standards help make sure forensic evidence used in police investigations and in court is accurate and impartial so innocent people are protected from wrongful convictions and criminals are brought to justice.
Until now, the regulator has successfully ensured organisations have met these standards on a voluntary basis.
The Home Office launched the consultation on whether the regulator’s powers should be strengthened and put on a statutory basis.
It follows discussions with the police, commercial forensic science providers and current regulator Andrew Rennison, and changes in legislation.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said:
Following consideration we have concluded that there is a risk that voluntary quality standards might not provide the high level of assurance required for forensic evidence in the future.
Accordingly we now propose introducing stronger powers, including putting the regulator’s codes of practice on a statutory basis.
It would then be mandatory for every organisation, both public and commercial, carrying out forensic analysis for the criminal justice system to meet those standards.
The proposals already have the backing of the regulator, many commercial providers and the Science and Technology Select Committee.
Wider views will now be sought before the most effective and proportionate regulation system for forensic science is determined.
The consultation will run for eight weeks and end on 3 January.