Posts Tagged ‘Forensic Science Service’

Private Eye 2011 on the Closure of Government Forensic Service

January 20, 2015

Also in the 24th June – 7th July issue of Private Eye was this piece on the effects of the Coalition’s closure of the Forensic Science Service. While it isn’t of the same headline importance as the government’s destruction of the NHS, it is still a piece of massive misgovernment by the currently administration. The destruction of the service means that police forces and health professionals can wait for months for vital forensic information. There is clearly a real threat that this could result in , vital evidence going overlooked or missing, leading to miscarriages of justice and unsolved crimes.

Con-sultation Period

More damning evidence of the lack of thinking behind the closure of Britain’s well regarded Forensic Science Service (FSS) emerged at the Commons science and technology committee recently, when both the Home Office’s chief scientific adviser and its forensic science regulator revealed that they had not been consulted on the decision.

When the minister responsible for the closure, James Brokenshire, appeared before MPs he admitted: “There was no formal assessment of the [research and development] elements as such but I was very conscious, in making this decision, of the potential impact on R and D”. So instead of taking into account this crucial point he has arranged a post-horse-bolting review, which will do nothing for the loss of research capability.

The shut-down was, Brokenshire acknowledged, “a largely commercial decision” (see Eye 1285). But it looks shaky even on these grounds. The government bandied about a £2m a week” figure for losses at the FSS (which most people still thought a fair price for a valuable part of the criminal justice system), but the service’s chairman said that these would be far lower following a recent “transformation” programme. In any case, Brokenshire also confirmed that closing the service is estimated to cost £70m in redundancies, interest and project costs – or three years worth of supposed “losses”.

So where did the hasty, unconsidered decision come from? Police Professional magazine reports that it was taken on the recommendation of Gordon Wasserman, who was responsible for the FSS as a leading Home Office civil servant and under the last Tory government, during which time he instigated the charging of police services for forensics that was a prelude to further commercialisation under New Labour.

In the late 1990s Wasserman left for the US to become a consultant to various police departments; and from 2004 until 2006 director of private forensic science company, Orchid Cellmark, which in Britain describes itself as a “key supplier to government agencies, UK police forces.”

Last summer, Wasserman was brought in by David Cameron personally as a unpaid adviser and named on his list of new peers in November. A month later the closure of the Forensic Science Service was announced. As policy-making goes, it makes the NHS reforms look like a model of smooth government.

So, the privatisation of the Forensic Science Service is pretty much all of piece as the rest of the government’s privatisation programmes. It is massively expensive, destroys both efficiency and expertise, and is conducted by someone, who has direct commercial interests in the removal of state services. It’s why there are memes all over the internet declaring the Tories to be the ‘Selfservatives’.

As for Wasserman, he was on Maggie’s taskforce, which looked into and recommended the privatisation of the NHS. There’s no way this man should ever be allowed anywhere near a state industry.