Alarm over commercial rival to Forensic Science Service

CRIMINAL lawyers are sceptical about using a company accredited as the first commercial supplier of crime-scene DNA profiles to the police.

Forensic Alliance, which will have access to the National DNA Database, is a direct competitor to the Home Office's Forensic Science Service (FSS).

It has stressed that its scientific resources, accredited by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), are also at the disposal of the legal profession.

But Simons Muirhead & Burton senior partner Ant-hony Burton says: “My fundamental concern would be that, if it is doing defence and prosecution work, it has a sound conflicts procedure in place to avoid any risk of conflicts.”

Adrian Clarke, a partner at Bindman & Partners, agrees. “I would prefer to use an agency that is doing solely defence work, rather than instructing experts who are doing prosecution work as well.”

But Brian McDonnell, a solicitor at Claude Hornby & Cox, says the move could be good for defendants. “There has been a great deal of work for the FSS of late and there have been backlogs with DNA analysis, so I am not surprised that ACPO has accredited another organisation to relieve some of the pressure.

“Police bail would shorten. There can be a long wait for DNA analysis and we would probably welcome it if it speeds up the criminal process.”

Forensic Alliance managing director Russell Stockdale comments: “We are doing an increasing amount of frontline police work but also, when asked, take on other work for commercial organisations, and also for the defence.”