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Forensic Science Laboratory

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In what way and by whom the Forensic Science Laboratory in Carrickfergus is accredited; and what is the significance of the accreditation to the provision of evidence in criminal cases. [HL3448]

Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to the latest ISO 17025-2005 standard. UKAS accreditation is voluntary except in the case of uploading DNA profiles to the national DNA database, and, although accreditation is an assurance of a recognised standard, it is not a pre-requisite for providing forensic science evidence in criminal cases.

Some forensic science disciplines are not intrinsically suited to being UKAS accredited due to their complex and varied methodologies. FSNI's range of accreditation is, however, one of the widest of all forensic science providers.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Forensic Science Laboratory in Carrickfergus has in the past had its accreditation withdrawn; if so, for what reason; for how long; and with what effect. [HL3449]

Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) has twice had its accreditation suspended. On the first occasion, in June 2001, FSNI voluntarily suspended accreditation for the physical methods section in the laboratory. Physical methods do glass and paint comparisons. The suspension was as a result of non-adherence to the documented quality system within that area. No other areas were suspended at that time, and UKAS accreditation for physical methods was reinstated in March 2002.

As accreditation is not a pre-requisite to practice as a forensic science provider, there was no effect on the work done by that section during suspension.

In May 2002, FSNI had the testing aspect of accreditation suspended following a UKAS inspection. Accreditation for calibration was not suspended. This was as a result of a number of quality management related issues, including using the UKAS logo on reports for physical methods cases during the time that accreditation was suspended. The process of re-accreditation began in December 2004, when those sections put forward for accreditation were successful. Full accreditation was completed in April 2006.