Report rules out privatisation of Londonderry crime scenes

Police forensic officer at the scene of a security alert.
Police forensic officer at the scene of a security alert.

A new report by the CJI has ruled out the privatisation of Londonderry crime scenes but recommended a new centralised funding model for forensics here.

An independent inspection report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) says the Department of Justice (DoJ) should complete a strategy for Forensic Services Northern ireland (FSNI), which employs 220 people in Carrickfergus and has an annual budget of £12m.

According to the new report: “The strategy should present options for the funding and integrated delivery of forensic services from crime scene to court.”

But the CJI ruled out going down the privatisation road as has been seen in England and Wales, suggesting a commercial approach could be built on within the public sector.

Other recommendations are for the PSNI to implement arrangements for the effective and efficient management of demand for forensic services; and for the FSNI to increase the capacity of its laboratory to deliver a quantified increase in the volume of outputs and a quantified reduction in avoidable delay.

Deputy Chief Inspector of CJINI James Corrigan said: “The strategy would require the input of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and FSNI as the key providers of forensic services and should be directly linked to the requirements of prosecutors and the needs of the courts.”

In addition it would contribute to a reduction in avoidable delay and the achievement of justice sector objectives such as faster, fairer justice.

The Deputy Chief Inspector added that the police and FSNI should work together to better manage the demand for forensic science expertise and improve productivity within the laboratory.

“Inspectors welcome the steps that have been taken to date within FSNI to improve efficiency and the 20 per cent increase in capacity already achieved in relation to some drugs analysis and exhibits submitted by the State Pathologist’s Department.

“This level of increased productivity needs to be urgently replicated within other specialisms operating within the organisation in order to reduce avoidable delay and minimise criticism that has recently been raised in court.

“We would also support FSNI’s efforts to make better use of staff overtime by using it in a targeted manner to address backlogs and spikes in demand for forensic science and maximise value for money,” said Mr Corrigan.

In conclusion, the Deputy Chief Inspector indicated that in order to strengthen the quality of forensic science in Northern Ireland, Inspectors recommended FSNI should seek to allocate a proportion of budgetary savings to research and development.