Plans to close the Forensic Science Service could compromise the courts system and leave the country unable to deal with the aftermath of a major terrorist incident, MP Jonathan Reynolds told Parliament today.
Currently the Forensic Science Service, which operates as a government owned company, is the largest provider of forensic science services in the country.
And its team of 1100 staff offer a broad range of expertise that includes the analysis of documents, mobile phones, toxicology, marks and traces, DNA, firearms, fibres and hair.
But in December the Government announced the FSS was to close by the end of March 2012.
Today Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds highlighted concerns about the Government's plans in a Westminster Hall Debate.
And he asked the Home Office Minister Damian Green for assurances that the plans would not compromise standards of justice
During the debate Mr Reynolds pointed to the FSS's unique position as a national provider the full range of forensic techniques.
And he said, in his own Stalybridge and Hyde constituency, the toxicology evidence that had been so important in the conviction of Harold Shipman was a powerful reminder of the value of the support offered by the FSS to law enforcement agencies.
Mr Reynolds highlighted the important role of the FSS in the solving of ‘cold cases'. And he pointed to their unique capability and capacity to deal with a major terrorist incident.
In the immediate aftermath of bombings and attempted bombings of July 7 and July 21, more than 100 FSS scientists were called on to analyse 4500 items. And Mr Reynolds raised doubts about whether there was currently the capability and the capacity in the private sector to deal with similar incidents.
"Currently the FSS is the only UK organisation that has forensic experience of terrorist attacks," said Mr Reynolds. "Without the FSS, who would have the capability and the capacity to provide the vital evidence that our judicial system relies on?"
"Leaving the UK unable to deal with the aftermath of a terrorist attack is not acceptable. And if the Government cannot prove their plans have the rigour to cope, they should withdraw them immediately and think again."
Mr Reynolds also addressed the Government's claims that the closure is necessary because of the losses being incurred by the service.
And he drew attention to savings made by the current restructuring programme - which has involved the closure of three laboratories and the loss of 750 staff in the past six months.
He said: "By the Government's own admission, the £2million figure they repeatedly use to justify their plans takes no account of the savings made by the FSS's restructuring programme.
"The financial implications of the government proposals are clearly being exaggerated - meanwhile the risks have not yet been sufficiently addressed.
"Clearly the quality of justice in our court system will be compromised if standards of accuracy and impartiality are not maintained."
Mr Reynolds was alerted to the issue by a constituent who is a specialist firearms expert at the Northern Firearms Unit, in Greater Manchester, which is part of the FSS. He is pictured during a visit to the NFU earlier this year.
Published May 2011