In December, 2010, the U. K. announced the closure of the Forensic Science Service (FSS) stating that the government no longer had an interest in funding forensic science laboratories.
The U. K. has a unique way to fund forensic science service to the nation’s police – it privatized it. The government funds law enforcement and a part of those funds are used to purchase forensic science services from a number of competing sources. FSS lost market share and was unable to compete with smaller, more agile providers. Thus, with mounting operating loses, the government decided to terminate the FSS, a service which was seen as a money loser.
The Forensic Science Service has been considered by many to be among the premier forensic science laboratories in the world. It provided top quality laboratory services but also was engaged in cutting edge research and development in forensic science. Unfortunately, the business model established by the government under PM Margaret Thatcher proved in the end to be the undoing of the FSS.
The international forensic science community has urged the U.K. government to reconsider their decision. Thus far, it is an open question whether the Forensic Science Service will continue to exist in some form or at all.
One might want to consider whether critical public services should operate in a market environment or be underwritten by tax dollars. More importantly, which scheme serves the public better and are public safety agencies likewise well served by a fee for service model.