‘Swapping Carrots for Sticks: Forensic Science Provider Views of the Forensic Regulator Act 2021’

Emmanuel Nsiah Amoako, Carole McCartney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In April 2021, the Forensic Science Regulator Act 2021 received Royal Assent, providing new statutory powers for the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) of England and Wales. These powers are intended to enable the FSR to compel forensic science providers (FSPs) comply with quality standard requirements. The FSR has until now relied upon ‘soft power’ and arguments of benefits to be gained if FSPs achieve accreditation and adhere to the Code of Practice. Reaching the limits of persuasive powers, the FSR Act now introduces powers to penalise FSPs who remain unaccredited or fall below published standards. To gauge the potential impact, forensic scientists were asked to anticipate effects of the Act. Practitioners indicated that the new statutory powers could instil a sense of urgency among police force forensic science units in particular, in prioritising quality and investing in accreditation. However, there are significant capacity limitations which may hamper more widespread and sustainable change, such as financial pressures faced by FSPs, as well as resource constraints within the FSR role. Changing from a regulatory approach focussed upon voluntary cooperation, support and encouraging intrinsic motivations (i.e ‘carrots’), for one reliant upon deterrence in the forms of threats of sanctions and punishment (‘sticks’), could prevent real improvements in quality and undermine the achievement of regulatory aims. The FSR Act is unable to address problems with forensic science provision, that militate against the quality of forensic science services. Thus, benefits accrued from swapping carrots for sticks may be illusory and may ultimately prove counterproductive.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience & Justice
Early online date1 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Aug 2022

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