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 warn. 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.

New digital evidence

The situation we are in cannot continue, said Narendra Patel, the committee’s chair. Cuts to funding, combine with increasing demand for new digital evidence, had brought forensic provision to “breaking point”, he said. Unless properly regulate, 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 raise about the outsourcing of forensic services by police authorities to unregulated providers that not meet minimum quality standards set by the government’s regulator.

The overall quality and delivery of forensic science in England and Wales was describe as “inadequate”. Huge cuts to overall spending on commercial providers, from £120m to about £50m in the past decade, meant companies’ margins had cut to the bone”, Patel said. Some areas of private provision had seen 70%-90% erosions in pricing, the report said.

Forensics division of Eurofins

Mark Pearse, the commercial director in the forensics division of Eurofins, one of the three major providers in the UK, describe an “unsustainable toxic set of conditions” when he appear before the inquiry. Representatives from the two other largest providers Key Forensics; which had to be bail out by police last year after going into administration, and Cell mark raise similar concerns.

Prof Ruth Morgan, director of the UCL Centre for Forensic Sciences; also a special adviser to the report, said: “If one of those major providers; so withdrew from the market, they’d have a massive capacity issue. There be significant challenges to the integrity of the evidence and upholding justice.

Prof Claude Roux, the director of the Centre for Forensic Science; so University of Technology, Sydney, and president of the International Association of Forensic Sciences; so the inquiry that the UK was once regard as “Mecca” for forensic science. “Some 30 years later, my observation from the outside is that; it has an ongoing national crisis and, at this stage; which is more of an example not to follow,” they said.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Forensic science is an invaluable tool; so for bringing criminals to justice and it is vital it has the confidence of the public. That is why we commission a joint review of police forensics; so with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and develop a 13-point taking action plan; hence to strengthen the market and address quality concerns. They will consider the findings of the report carefully and respond in due course.