Following on our piece of 27 January about the crisis in criminal Legal Aid, we were interested to read in Inside Time a thought-provoking article, which we reproduce here.
At a recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Miscarriages of Justice, Dr Gillian Tully, the Forensic Science Regulator, warned of the potential for wrongful convictions through defence lawyers being unable, for lack of funding, to challenge the forensics that so often form the backbone of prosecution cases:
A watchdog has claimed that legal aid cuts could lead
to miscarriages of justice
The warning came from the Forensic Science Regulator, who oversees the forensics labs which analyse samples taken at crime scenes.
Lab results are presented to juries in expert reports. But the regulator, Dr Gillian Tully, warned that funding cuts were preventing defence lawyers from hiring independent experts to scrutinise and challenge the reports.
She said this meant there was now “less of a safety net” against wrongful convictions.
Dr Tully was speaking at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Miscarriages of Justice in February.
Since the state-owned Forensic Science Service was closed in 2012, police forces have analysed samples in their own laboratories or paid private providers to do it.
Dr Tully also told the meeting that in order to save money, forces were imposing limits on the number of samples and swabs tested – thus reducing their chances of finding evidence which could implicate or clear their main suspect.
She added that since the privatisation of the industry, young scientists were no longer being trained in niche disciplines such as analysing fibres from crime scenes, so there was a risk that expertise would be lost.
Dr Tully has previously warned that police are abandoning cases because they do not have the resources to analyse huge volumes of digital evidence.
The original article can be found HERE.