The regulation of forensic science in England and Wales

Nsiah Amoako, Emmanuel (2020) The regulation of forensic science in England and Wales. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

Recommendations aimed at preventing criminal justice failings caused by forensic science errors and quality failures have led to the creation of the Forensic Science Regulator’s (FSR) role in England and Wales. The FSR role ensures that the provision of forensic science services across the criminal justice system (CJS) is subject to an appropriate regime of scientific quality standards. Despite reports of an increasing framework of quality standards overseen by the FSR, knowledge about the impact of regulation on the quality of forensic services is lacking. The aim of this study was to understand the fitness of the FSR role in improving the quality of forensic service provision from the crime scene to court. Stakeholder reports about the FSR role were analysed and supplemented with 18 semi-structured interviews with participants purposefully sampled from public and private sector Forensic Science Providers (FSPs). The experiences and views of the participants were analysed to interpret the extent to which the FSR role has been impacting the provision of forensic services that reflects the needs of the CJS.

Overall, qualitative findings have shown that even though the FSR role has the potential to improve the quality of laboratory-based forensic practice, it is insufficient if attempting to improve the quality of forensic sciences carried out outside the laboratory setting. Cuts to police budget on forensic science and a consequent interest for cheaper forensic service delivery were seen to dictate the quality of forensic service provision. Criticisms indicate that it is more challenging achieving a forensic service delivery process that is continuously tailored to the needs of the CJS as a whole and not necessarily the demands of a specific forensic customer, because of the financial pressures on FSPs and not necessarily the lack of statutory powers for the FSR role. Concerns emphasise that providing statutory powers for the FSR only to mandate quality standard requirements are overly legalistic and will not drive any changes in quality beyond intensifying accreditation requirements, which will add to the financial pressures which adversely impact the quality of forensic science. Overall, the findings indicate that the lack of adequate funding for forensic service provision creates a gap in the role of the FSR which causes failures to address systemic issues which adversely affect the quality of forensic services. A suggestion is made for the provision of sufficient funding and for increasing the proximity between the FSR role and the management of the forensic marketplace. An increasing focus on quality culture is also recommended to build and improve the ethical and professional values of FSPs.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Forensic Science Regulator, Forensic Science Quality, Forensic Science Accreditation, Statutory forensic science regulation, Forensic Science Providers
Subjects: M900 Other in Law
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2021 08:03
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 10:50
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/46466

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