From October 2017, it became mandatory that law enforcement agencies had to disclose to the courts if forensic evidence relied upon in a prosecution was compliant with the Forensic Science Regulator’s Codes of Practice (Codes), the risk being that non-compliant products or services would be ruled inadmissible.
This move introduced serious implications not just for the police service, but also the security industry, whether users, buyers or suppliers of forensic products and services are part of the discussion. For example, a company that contracts with a supplier of forensic spray systems that’s not compliant with the Codes could find that any resultant forensic evidence is ruled inadmissible in court, thereby reducing their deterrent value.
In 2012, the Government abolished the Forensic Science Service, which was the main provider of forensic services to the courts, leaving it open for commercial companies to fill the resultant void. However, following the collapse of several high-profile court cases, the Forensic Science Regulator is seeking statutory powers to be able to ban sub-standard providers.
In her Annual Report, Dr Gillian Tully stated: “Without statutory backing for my role, a number of small and micro-businesses have chosen, for financial reasons, not to move towards gaining accreditation and those that have met the quality standards have not yet been fully rewarded through the contracting process. Those not moving towards compliance should be in no doubt that their products and services will gradually receive fewer commissions, while their practitioners will face more challenges in court.”
The Asset and Property Marking Section of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) welcomes the drive for increased quality. It’s absolutely right that suppliers of forensic products and services have to be independently accredited as being compliant in order to prevent and reduce the risk of miscarriages of justice, wasting police time and public money and subsequently resulting in the reduced credibility and reputation of the forensic security sector.
Mike Reddington, CEO at the BSIA, said: “Our role is not only to promote our members’ products and services, but also to encourage them to operate to the highest possible standards. Consequently, we applaud the Forensic Science Regulator’s drive for quality and confirm that, where relevant, all members of the BSIA are compliant or working towards compliance with the Code for sound commercial reasons.”