The Science and Technology Select Committee Report:
26 July 2013
The Society was established in 1959 and is the independent Professional body for forensic scientists and forensic practitioners. Its’ purpose is to promote rigorous quality assurance mechanisms ensuring that members serve the criminal justice system and the public interest with skill, professionalism and integrity at all times.
As a registered charity it is free from political or commercial influence and serves the national interests of justice with a clear, consistent voice across the UK. The Forensic Science Society takes action in response to the Select Committee concerns about expert witness!
“In principle, we support the Forensic Science Society’s project to develop a searchable database of forensic experts. (Paragraph 54).”
The Society welcomes this Report in the wake of the closure of The Forensic Science Service and commends the Committee on the thorough review they have carried out across a wide range of stakeholders involved in the criminal justice system.
We are pleased to have contributed written evidence which has been highlighted in the Report, particularly in relation to the forthcoming provision of a publicly available Society database, or Roll, of forensic experts whose scientific skills, understanding of the criminal justice system and integrity have met designated criteria.
We are in a unique position to provide this service to investigators, lawyers and the judiciary. Our members provide forensic services for both the defence and the prosecution to the same high standards; they must comply with The Society’s Code of Conduct, and where applicable the Forensic Science Regulator’s Codes of Conduct and Practice and guidance for expert witnesses issued by the Crown Prosecution Service. Whilst the Committee has reservations, The Society is committed to ensuring that The Roll will provide access to better quality expert evidence.
The Report highlights the difficulties caused by the potential for a perception of bias by police force in- house scientific experts; it refers to the commercial forensic science providers’ employment of scientists inducing the risk of interpreting scientific data from a more corporate perspective. Whilst the Report did not refer to any evidence that this in fact is happening, it did express frustration and concern regarding the Law Commission’s position that the government should legislate to enable experts to be judicially scrutinised. Even if the Ministry of Justice do support this recommendation, it would be some considerable time before statutory testing would become available to the CJS.
The Forensic Science Society’s Roll of Professional and Accredited Forensic Practitioners will be available to the public in the Autumn; we expect to open The Roll formally at our forthcoming Annual Conference, 6 – 8 November, in Manchester. Conference themes are Research and Development and Quality Standards.
Notes to Editors:
The Forensic Science Society is the professional body for forensic practitioners. It is international with members from Barbados to India and the USA to Australia. For many years the Society has been at the forefront of setting quality standards in forensic science. It works closely with the Forensic Science Regulator.
As well as running conferences and workshops the Society offers postgraduate diplomas in crime scene investigation, firearms, fire investigation and document examination in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde. There are six grades of membership: Student, Affiliate, Associate, Professional Member, Accredited Forensic Practitioner and Fellow. They are drawn from a wide cross-section of the forensic community and include scientists of all disciplines, scenes of crime officers, police, medical personnel, lawyers and academics. Its vision, to be the professional voice of forensic science, is achieved through links with forensic providers, police forces, policy makers and all stakeholders in the Criminal Justice System and forensic community.
To find out more about the Forensic Science Society please visit http://www.forensic-science-society.org.uk/ or call 01423 506068.