Forensic science and the criminal justice system

In May 2019, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published a report warning the quality and delivery of forensic science services in England and Wales was inadequate. It recommended several reforms intended to halt the damage this was causing to public trust in the criminal justice system. The House of Lords is scheduled to debate this report on 26 April 2021. This article summarises the committee’s recommendation, the Government’s response and subsequent developments.

Forensic science and the criminal justice system

Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill

The Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill is a government supported private member’s bill. It would amend existing legislation to allow prisons to test for a wider range of drugs, including psychoactive substances and prescription and pharmacy medicines, without the need to regularly change legislation in the future.

Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill
  • In Focus

    Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill

    The Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill would prohibit specific cosmetic procedures being performed on young people under the age of 18 in England, except under the direction of a registered health professional (such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses). It would also prohibit businesses from arranging or performing the procedures on under-18s. The bill has completed its stages in the House of Commons and is due to have its second reading in the Lords on 16 April 2021.

  • In Focus

    Facial recognition technology: police powers and the protection of privacy

    Facial recognition technology is used to identify individuals or to verify someone’s identity. Live facial recognition has been used by several police forces in England and Wales in collaboration with the private sector. There have been calls for increased scrutiny and oversight of the powers of the police to use the technology, including in the House of Lords. This article summarises the debates about the use of this technology.

  • In Focus

    Forensic Science Regulator Bill

    The Forensic Science Regulator Bill would put the existing forensic science regulator post on a statutory basis. The bill would also give the regulator powers to enforce a statutory code of practice for forensic science activities relating to the criminal justice system in England and Wales. The bill has completed its stages in the House of Commons and is due to have its second reading in the Lords on 19 March 2021.

  • In Focus

    Sanctions (EU Exit) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

    The House of Lords is due to consider the Sanctions (EU Exit) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 on 8 February 2021. The regulations, which came into force on 1 January 2021, are a consequence of a change in policy and drafting approach to sanctions licences issued by British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. This article examines what the regulations do and why they have been made.

  • In Focus

    Bribery Act 2010: Post-Legislative Scrutiny

    In 2018, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010 conducted post-legislative scrutiny of the legislation. This included examining whether it had led to stricter prosecution of corrupt conduct. In March 2019, the Committee published its report. This article summarises the report and the Government’s response.

  • In Focus

    New legal definition of ‘antique firearm’

    The use of antique firearms in criminal activity has risen in recent years. Antique firearms which are kept as ornaments or curiosities are currently exempt from several provisions within firearms legislation. At present, there is no statutory definition of ‘antique firearm’. This article discusses new regulations that seek to introduce a legal definition.

  • Research Briefing

    Domestic Abuse Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages

    This government bill seeks to increase awareness of domestic abuse, strengthen support for victims and improve the effectiveness of the justice system. The bill includes provisions on several areas. It includes a new definition of domestic abuse, extra protection for victims and witnesses in court, and codifies the principle that consent to offences involving violent or abusive behaviour is not a defence.

  • In Focus

    Misogyny: A new hate crime?

    ‘Hate crime’ is used to describe a range of criminal behaviour that a victim or other person perceives to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards a person’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. These aspects of a person’s identity are referred to as ‘protected characteristics’. There have been recent calls to extend the protected characteristics to cover sex and gender. This would see misogyny become a hate crime.

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