Forensic science labs are on the brink of collapse, warns report

Fears raised about miscarriages of justice and unsolved crimes

A crisis in forensic science has brought some of the country’s largest private laboratories to the brink of collapse, risking miscarriages of justice, an inquiry has warned.

The House of Lords science and technology committee has called for urgent reforms to forensic science provision, warning that declining standards could lead to crimes going unsolved and an erosion of public trust in the criminal justice system.

“The situation we are in cannot continue,” said Narendra Patel, the committee’s chair. Cuts to funding, combined with increasing demand for new digital evidence, had brought forensic provision to “breaking point”, he said.

“Unless properly regulated, [the market] will soon suffer the shocks of major forensic science providers going out of business and putting justice in jeopardy,” Lord Patel added.

The inquiry heard that many private forensic service providers – including the three with the largest market share – were experiencing serious financial difficulties, with some on the brink of collapse. Concerns were also raised about the outsourcing of forensic services by police authorities to unregulated providers that had not met minimum quality standards set by the government’s regulator.

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