1st February 2011
FORENSIC SCIENCE SERVICE
Michael Fabricant has written to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, and the Home Office Minister, James Brokenshire, following a meeting he had with senior officials and lawyers living in Lichfield - some of whom who work for the Forensic Science Service based in Birmingham and which is facing closure.
Michael says: "The Government plans to wind down the national Forensic Science Service (FSS) which is based in Birmingham, transferring or selling off as much of its operations as possible. But I am now very concerned about the future of its research and development capability in which it leads the world and the future of its DNA database.
"While the Government has said it will work with FSS management and staff, the Association of Chief Police Officers, and other suppliers to ensure an orderly transition, the Government's firm ambition is that there will be no continuing state interest in a forensics provider by March 2012. FSS was set up as a Government owned company with an £18million loan back in December 2005 under the last Labour administration. The company has met interest payments on this loan, but cannot afford to repay the principal amount borrowed. The previous government supported the company with a further £50 million grant from early 2009 to restructure the business. Despite this intervention and the commitment of the current management team, the current challenging forensics market has put the FSS back into serious financial difficulty. FSS is currently making operating losses of around £2 million per month. Its cash is due to run out as early as this January and clearly the current situation cannot be maintained.
"However, while I am confident that there are many private and profitable companies which can undertake DNA and other forensic analysis for police forces in the UK, I am very concerned that the FSS research and development work which leads the world will be lost to this country.
"I have asked both the Attorney General and the Home Office Minister to think again about how the R&D capability can be maintained in this country and our lead not be lost to the United States or elsewhere. Clearly, small forensic analysis firms will not be able to undertake futuristic research work or adequately maintain the national database which is now languishing in a department of the Home Office. It is a shame that institutions like Birmingham University have not shown a greater interest in developing this work."
The Forensic Science Service (FSS) is the market leader in the supply of forensic services to police forces in England and Wales and has a global reputation for excellence in the development and deployment of new and advanced techniques. Its heritage and expertise also provide the basis for world-class training services. The Forensic Science Service pioneered the development and implementation of DNA technologies. It also paved the way for the establishment of the world's first DNA database, launched in April 1995.
The drive for innovation continued to yield ground-breaking results, with the introduction of the National Firearms Forensic Database in 2003 and Footwear Intelligence Technology (FIT), the UK's first online footwear coding and detection management system, in 2007.