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3 Replies

  1. 8 Egdean Walk,
    TN13 3UQ
    10th July 2018.

    Dear “Secret Barrister”,

    I have worked as a forensic scientist since graduating a long time ago and have recently finished reading your excellent book. I have experienced some of the problems you describe but was unaware of their universal prevalence. As a single example a case in which I was a potential witness was transferred from a central London Crown Court, probably Middlesex at the old guildhall, successively to Reading, Swindon, Cardiff and Swansea. The listing office was probably aware that the accused and all of the witnesses were state employees of one sort or another so no members of the public were inconvenienced but costs to the public purse were maximised.
    I write particularly because of your references to forensic science and the Forensic Science Regulator. (Chapter 9 and the footnotes 10, 11, and 12.) You may be aware that the Regulator seeks to make it compulsory for all forensic science providers to be accredited to ISO17025. Indeed, her proposals would make it a criminal offense for anyone not so accredited to provide forensic science services. The cost of accreditation is of the order of £15,000 in the first year, for each and every area of forensic science offered, with ongoing costs for ever after. That cost is significant for the major players whose financial situation is precarious – Key Forensic went into administration some months back and has only been kept in existence through purchase by a “Buy and Build group”. That cost is insupportable by the small partnerships and sole traders who are the main source of advice and support to defendants in criminal cases. If compulsion comes about the small traders will be forced out of business and defendants will be forced to rely on companies whose main customers are the constabularies. Accreditation does not prevent errors: Randox Testing Services has accreditation and Scotland Yard’s forensic services division has accreditation and both have suffered problems in the recent past. In fact, all of the problems with forensic science in recent years have occurred in laboratories accredited to ISO17025. Accreditation to ISO17025 is the bureaucratic answer to a problem better minimised by other means and which will never be eliminated entirely – humans are fallible. The best answer to a suspect result in forensic science is vigorous inspection of it by an equally qualified forensic scientist engaged by the other party.

    Yours faithfully,

    John Welch, B.Sc.,
    Forensic Handwriting Expert
    and Document Examiner.

  2. Dear Secret Barrister

    It was with great interest that I read recently that Law Society had won their legal to challenge against the Government to cut legal aid for solicitors.

    For some time now I have been wondering the fairness of the criminal justice system – from the incentives for judges to ‘perform’ to the unlimited resources of the crown prosecution service versus the defendant.

    Since I came across your book, it is nice to read your posts. I remain keen to learn how to affect change?

  3. Re your article of March 23, “Lives are being put at risk…”. I don’t know the current situation in the UK, but perhaps there might be some parallels with the Australian experience? See Kahil v R [2020] NSWCCA 56, judgment available at

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