MPs have warned that swingeing cuts to forensic science present a real risk to our justice system. A freedom of information request by the Sunday Post (here) has revealed that there had been over £11.6m worth of cuts to services such as DNA profiling and fingerprinting over the last four years to forces in the north of England.
Graham Stringer, a member of the House of Commons’ science and technology committee told the BBC, that ‘standards have slipped since the Forensic Science Service shut in 2012’. Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, said that murderers and rapists were ‘likely to go free’ because of the cuts.
Andrew Miller, the chair of the House of Commons science and technology committee, told www.thejusticegap.com that was significant inconsistency of cover up and down the country. ‘You shouldn’t just describe it as cuts, it’s much more complicated than that,’ said the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston. ‘There is no provision for proper research and that’s causing a genuine risk to justice as a result.’
Police forces in the north of England slashed a total of £11,620,634 between 2010 and 2014. Northumbria Police spent nearly £1.4 million less and Lancashire Constabulary nearly £2.3 million. Cumbria Police and Cleveland Police cut budgets by £346,000 and £458,579 respectively. The deepest cuts were made by Greater Manchester Police where spending on forensics fell from £18.6 million to £13.8 million.
The Sunday Post
The National Audit Office last month predicted that criminal cases could collapse due to police using private or in-house unregulated forensic experts. Many forces are now relying on their own unaccredited experts to examine evidence, the spending watchdog said, which presented ‘a risk of service interruption and lack of capacity’ and that could ‘hold up criminal cases or cause them to collapse’. You can read our report (here) and for more on the closure of the FSS here.
Greater Manchester Police, which has seen one of the deepest cuts, said that every aspect of policing has had to be ‘examined and restructured’ and forensics was no different. ‘Greater Manchester Police still has to find savings in excess of £30m over the next couple of years,’ commented deputy chief constable Ian Hopkins. ‘A detailed review has been undertaken to identify savings and ensure we are providing an effective and efficient forensic service to the people of Greater Manchester.’
Lancashire police have had their spend on forensic services cut from £3.3m in 2010-11 to around £990,000 in 2013-14. The force was given over £400,000 by the government in August 2014 to trial the RapidHit technology which, it is claimed, would allow officers to obtain DNA results at a crime scene within hours rather than days. ‘Previously the force was paying for many tests to be carried out outside of the area which was more costly,’ said Lancashire police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw. ‘We are now able to provide the service for much less cost.’
Author: Alice Wheatley
Alice is a journalism student at Winchester University – and a reporter for the JusticeGap