Forensic Science Regulator squeezing small providers
Does the FSR dislike small commercial providers?
One of our forensic science expert witnesses wrote to express concern over the potentially negative effect of the Forensic Science Regulator’s (FSR) deadline for obtaining accreditation. The fear is that the speed of implementation – firms must be compliant by October 2017 – will reduce the viability of many small forensic science businesses. Is it just us, or does the FSR’s system seem to be designed to drive out the small forensic science providers? Where is the evidence that this is a necessary precursor to universally higher quality forensic reports?
The FSR’s view is that UKAS is the appropriate accreditation organisation, and she is expecting all small to medium-sized expert witness organisations to have gained accreditation by October 2017. The UKAS system is cumbersome, suited undoubtedly to the large enterprise, but it is very challenging to the smaller concerns. However, in her Newsletter 28, the FSR notes:
‘The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (CSFS), in collaboration with the Forensic and Policing Services Association (FAPSA), is working to assist small businesses/sole traders that do not yet have a quality management system. They intend to develop a generic quality manual that meets the general quality management requirements of the ISO standard, allowing traders to concentrate on developing their technical requirements.’
That all sounds very helpful, until you reach her closing shot:
‘[I support] the initiative, but remind those that provide services that require accreditation by October 2017 that this pilot and/or service set-up will not deliver to that timeline.’
So the FSR’s support is irrelevant because this approach to helping small providers will not meet the deadline.
Of course it should not be forgotten that the FSR accepts at para 7.4.1 (see Legal Obligations Issue 4) that:
‘There is no legal requirement for an organisation, or individual, to be accredited to any national, or international, standard before results they generate are admissible as evidence.’
However, it seems inevitable that not having accreditation may place the forensic service provider at an evidential disadvantage.
What’s your view?
We are interested to hear from you if you work in the forensic science arena and are currently dealing with this drive towards accreditation. Have you decided to avoid the cost and rely on para 7.4.1, or are you swallowing hard and accepting the need to achieve accreditation whatever the cost? Do you think that this accreditation will drive up reporting quality, and if so, is it the only way to meet this end?