Forensic Services

Justice – in the House of Commons on 9th November 2021.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

What discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the quality of forensic services used in the criminal justice system.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

As the Minister with responsibility for cross-departmental criminal justice issues, I spend a lot of time talking to myself.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

I am sure the Minister is aware that many people in the criminal justice system are deeply worried about the state of forensic science, on which so much depends. I will not play the card that it is all the fault of privatisation; it is much deeper than that. Will he not only have a serious look at the evidence from the recent House of Lords inquiry, but keep in touch with me and with Sir Robert Neill, my co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice? This is an urgent matter that goes to the heart of many miscarriages of justice. Will the Minister work with us to get it right again?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am more than happy to work with the hon. Gentleman on the issues that he raises. He is quite right that forensics are a critical part of a good and functioning criminal justice system. He will know that in the Home Office part of my job, significant work is going into the transforming forensics programme, which has received investment of more than £25 million in each of the past two years, bolstering and reinforcing the Forensic Capability Network. He will also know that the Mackey review, which was completed in April, has been looking at where forensics goes next, and that there is a jointly chaired forensics sub-group of the Criminal Justice Board that looks at the issue across both Departments.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

Contrary to the question from Mr Sheerman, will the Minister welcome the developments in forensic science that led to last week’s conviction of David Fuller for two murders and multiple counts of sexual abuse in mortuaries? Will he commit to ensuring that with every development in science and technology, the system routinely returns to unsolved cases so that justice can be done?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My hon. Friend makes a really important point. She is quite right that as forensic science develops—and it is developing very rapidly indeed—we are able to revisit some quite elderly cases in which evidence is still available and reveal the true perpetrators of some awful crimes. What we saw last week was a brilliant result by Kent police. A matter that I have to confess that I was involved with, where exactly what my hon. Friend describes took place, was the catching of the killers of Stephen Lawrence nearly 20 years after the killing: it was driven specifically by developments in the ability to assess microdots of blood in a way we had not been able to do before. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that all police forces, through the Forensic Capability Network, need to keep all so-called cold cases under review as science leads us towards greater and greater answers.