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Forensic Science Service closure forces police to use untested private firms

By Sunny September 5th, 2011 News Comments Off

This article is taken from the Guardian Newspaper and was first published on Wednesday 3 August 2011. The original article can be found at www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/03/forensic-science-service-closure-police

Forces employing suppliers without ‘due diligence’ after rushed closure of loss-making central service

The closure of the Forensic Science Service has been so rushed that police forces have been forced to turn to untested private suppliers to fill the gap, a police authority has warned.

Andrew White, the chief executive of the Hertfordshire police authority, said he had no choice but to sign off new contracts without doing the usual due diligence after being told that if they were not in place by the middle of July, there would be no access to forensic services in October. “This was not considered an option,” he said.

Hertfordshire is one of 10 forces, including Hampshire, Kent and the City of London, in a joint competitive tendering exercise to replace the Forensic Science Service (FSS). The contracts range from simple DNA analysis from swabs taken when people are arrested, through to specialist support at crime scenes, including murder and rape.

Closure of the FSS was announced last December by the home secretary, Theresa May, because the government-owned company had been losing £2m a month and was at risk of going into administration. Its operations are to be sold or transferred before it closes next March.

The process has already been sharply criticised by MPs, with the Commons science and technology select committee calling last month for a six-month extension to the closure deadline because they were not confident an orderly transition could be achieved.

“Unfortunately, the process was extremely rushed and it was not possible to exercise the usual due diligence before signing these contracts,” White said in a report to the last meeting of Hertfordshire police authority.

“The contracts seek to ensure quality standards, as did the procurement process, but it should be noted that many of these suppliers are relatively untested in this country and they are all having to build capability to cope with additional work from the UK police service. Read the full article at the Guardian website…

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