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Police pay out millions after collapse of forensics firm


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Forces bail out company after Home Office refuses to step in.

Police pay out millions after collapse of forensics firm

Forces have been forced into a multi-million pounds bailout of a private forensics company after its collapse threatened to bring turmoil to the criminal justice system.

Key Forensic Services (KFS), which folded on Friday was carrying out work in 2,000 cases, including a number of serious offences such as murder and rape, for 30 forces.

Police Oracle asked which forces were involved and how much they had paid, but had not received an answer as this article went live. 

The company, which handles everything from DNA testing to firearms examination and drug testing, went into receivership weeks after the collapse of Carillion, the construction company.

The development will raise questions over the government’s decision to privatise forensic services in 2012.

It comes amid an ongoing investigation into Randox, where scores of prosecutions have been dropped and several convictions hang in the balance after 10,000 potential cases of data manipulation were identified at a forensics lab.

Police bailed out KFS at a cost of millions after the Home Office refused to step in. The funding will support the company for up to three months to allow it to finish processing cases and to find a buyer, The Times reported.

The National Police Chiefs Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners are currently working alongside the Home Office to minimise the impact on the criminal justice system and ongoing cases.

NPCC Lead for Forensic Markets, DCC James Vaughan said: “An unmanaged closure of a major forensic provider would prove very disruptive to the criminal justice system and could lead to the integrity of vital evidence being compromised or lost.

“We have agreed and are implementing a plan to ensure that evidence held by this supplier is properly and professionally managed in accordance with very high standards set by the Forensic Regulator."

APCC Lead for Forensics and for Public Confidence, Mark Burns-Williamson said: “It’s vitally important that an arrangement has now been reached with the administrator at very short notice, which will mean staff are retained and paid for carrying out this crucial work over the coming weeks.

“The arrangements mean the exhibits held by Key Forensic Services Ltd, including for homicide and rape investigations, can be processed during this period of administration and the integrity of the criminal justice system will be protected.

“It is estimated further work on current cases will take place for around two months and work is already underway to assess the capacity within the forensic science market to take on the work that would otherwise have gone to this company.

“Of course, our sympathies are with staff during this uncertain time. We echo the sentiments of the Forensic Science Regulator praising the commitment to providing high quality scientific work to support the criminal justice system, and can assure them that there remains a strong need for their specialist skills.

“We will continue to work hard to make sure that we maintain the confidence of the public in this vital area for policing and criminal justice underlining the urgent need to help transform forensics services as soon as possible."

A Home Office spokesman said: “We welcome the NPCC and APCC’s swift action to minimise the impact on the criminal justice system."

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Much of this originates from home office failures to properly fund the police service. And then we are forced to pay out after it all goes wrong. I can remember when a lot of the forensic work was performed in house and there were some very talented personnel who were lost. Outsourcing to cheaper providers reflects the quality you pay for in some instances. Yet, with slashed budgets it can seem like a sensible option - until the wheel comes off.

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I agree with the funding point. They are a private business which I imagine has high capital expenditure to operate and high overheads due to the skilled nature of what they do. The bulk of their revenue will be from police forces who in the latter years have sent less and less away for forensic testing due to cut backs. With less revenue and high operating costs I’m not surprised they have gone under. Maybe it’s time for Branson to step in and create “Virgin Forensics.”

I don’t think it should be bought back in house. We could inadvertently create a postcode system as to what level of forensic service each force gives.

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