Customer focus crucial to future success of FSNI


Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) has been urged to maintain and continue its efforts to develop a more customer focused way of working, in a new report published today (9 July 2009) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).

The inspection report found the provision of a high quality, timely and cost effective service would be crucial to FSNI’s ability to address the radically changing nature of how forensic science services are delivered in the future.

“One of the biggest challenges currently facing FSNI is the proposed development of a more competitive marketplace, which would enable key customers such as the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to approach other forensic science providers to provide services currently supplied by FSNI,” said Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
The Police Service - which as FSNI’s primary customer has accounted for 90% of its income over recent years - has recognised the benefits of having a locally-based forensic science provider. But as it faces future budget constraints, broader value for money considerations will become a key factor.
“This changing environment means FSNI needs to implement a process of ‘costing’ the service it provides. The organisation can then develop a price list to allow the PSNI and other potential customers, to compare the price of its services with those of other forensic science laboratories,” said Mr McGuigan.
“Inspectors found evidence of a renewed focus within FSNI on delivering an effective forensic science service. Accreditation of specific forensic science disciplines by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) has been sustained and extended since our last report in 2007,” said the Deputy Chief Inspector.
“The agency’s decision to work in partnership with the United Kingdom Forensic Science Regulator to ensure high quality standards and address concerns raised in the Omagh bomb judgement, is another positive step which Inspectors have welcomed,” he added.
Performance in relation to the provision of DNA results was also found to compare favourably with other forensic science laboratories.
Mr McGuigan said that as FSNI prepares to move forward, the main criminal justice organisations need to work with FSNI to determine the type of forensic science service required for the future.
“Partner organisations must outline their views on the type of service they want, so a clear understanding of the needs of the wider criminal justice system develops as part of a forensic science strategy for Northern Ireland.
“Inspectors recommend this strategy should be used to help shape plans for a new modern forensic science laboratory for Northern Ireland, ensuring it is designed and built specifically with the needs of its customers in mind,” said Mr McGuigan..
“FSNI is currently at a crucial point in its development. It is vital that effort invested in preparing the organisation to meet the challenges of the future is maintained and continues to grow,” concluded the Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.