Forensic scientists lobby against privatisation


Forensic scientists lobby against privatisation

Forensic scientists from around the UK are lobbying the TUC against government plans to privatise their service.

Under the slogan ‘Don’t Profit from Crime,’ representatives from all seven FSS laboratories will leaflet delegates outside the Brighton Centre on Wednesday.

Home Secretary David Blunkett announced plans on the last day of the last parliamentary session to set up the Forensic Science Service as a ‘public-private partnership.’ Within the next 18 months, FSS, now a trading fund, will be converted into a government-owned plc. Between 51-75 per cent of shares will then be sold to a private sector ‘partner.’

Prospect and the Public and Commercial Services union, representing 2,750 scientists and support staff in the FSS, have pledged to fight the sell-off.

"It would be bad for the fight against crime, bad for science and bad for staff," said Paul Noon, Prospect General Secretary. "Forensic science is an integral part of the system of criminal justice. It is driven by a public service ethos yet more than covers its costs.

"There is no demand for this sale, which would put at risk all the achievements that have made the FSS a world leader in forensic science."

Staff and unions say that a profit-driven FSS would be forced to put up charges, resulting in higher costs for the police and a reduction in the number of samples sent for analysis.

With 90 per cent of the forensic science market, the FSS would be a virtual monopoly and dominate its smaller, private sector competitors. It would be the only privatised forensic science service in the world.

FSS, now a Home Office trading fund, analyses more than 135,000 samples of forensic evidence for police forces in England and Wales each year, as well as 555,000 samples of DNA. It has 2,700 staff, including 1,600 scientists, based at seven laboratories in Birmingham (two), London, Chepstow, Chorley, Huntingdon and Wetherby.