This written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons by Norman Baker MP and in the House of Lords by Lord Taylor of Holbeach.
A consultation on strengthening the powers of the Forensic Science Regulator has been launched today.
The regulator’s role is to set the quality standards expected of organisations providing forensic science services to the criminal justice system. These standards help ensure the accuracy and impartiality of forensic evidence used in police investigations and in court, protecting the innocent from wrongful convictions and ensuring criminals are brought to justice. To date, the regulator has been successful in securing uptake of these standards on a voluntary basis.
However, our discussions with the police, commercial forensic service providers and the regulator, taken alongside market developments and changes in legislation, have indicated there is a risk that voluntary quality standards might not, in the future, provide the high level of assurance required for forensic evidence. For that reason we now propose introducing stronger powers, including putting the regulator’s codes of practice, which set out the quality standards for forensic science providers, on a statutory basis. It would then be mandatory for every organisation carrying out forensic analysis for the criminal justice system, including commercial providers to the police and to defendants, and the police themselves, to meet these standards. There has been support from the regulator, many commercial providers and the Science and Technology Select Committee for these proposals. This consultation is an opportunity to seek wider views, before determining the most effective and proportionate regulation system for forensic science.
A copy of this consultation will be placed in the House Library and it will also available on the Home Office website.
The government’s response to the Science and Technology Select Committee report on forensic science is also being published today, 8 November. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.