I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but recently I've been a little 'blessed' by the Mucal Fairie*. Which is never quite as much fun as one thinks when replying to the gilt-edged calling card he leaves on your sleeve. Well, I say 'gilt'... it's kinda shiny, so that's almost the same thing.
Anyway, yes, things: since I started writing this crime fiction malarkey, I've got to know a number of police officers and all of them are mightily pissed off that SPSA (the Scotish Police Services Authority) have all gone on some sort of lunchtime Absinthe bender and decided that it would be really, really good idea to shut the forensic lab for Grampian and shift everything down to a new-build facility in Dundee.
Wow, I can't see anything daft about that, can you? I mean, it's not as if the police need urgent round the clock access to forensic and fingerprint facilities, is it? They're not going to mind having a two hour round trip to the labs are they? Be nice for them, bit of a drive up and down to Dundee**, get out of the office for a while, look at the scenery. Not like they've got anything better to do, is it? Like -- ooh, I don't know, let's go out on a limb here -- catch bloody criminals?
'Aha,' you say, with that winsome smile of yours, 'but they don't actually have to go to Dundee, do they? They could totally just give them a phonecall, or an email. Or maybe send them a nice bunch of flowers.' Well, you know what: there's a huge difference between meeting someone face-to-face and sending them an email. Plus, we have something called the 'Chain of evidence' which means you can't just stick a blood-stained knife in the post (first class of course, I mean, let's not be silly about this) to the lab in Dundee and hope anything you get off of it will actually stand up in court. Every bit of evidence has to be signed for, supervised, passed from A to B in a very controlled manner, so even if you're not getting police officer acting as delivery boys (and girls), you're still going to have to have someone legally accountable do it. Not to mention just how incredibly important it is for forensic scientist to know about the area they're dealing with.
But don't just take it from me, this is what one of my mates who works for Grampian Police Force Headquarters says about it:
"Murder investigations in the north and north-east could be put in jeopardy if Aberdeen's forensic laboratory is closed..."'The Scottish Police Services Authority have proposed to close down the Aberdeen Forensic Laboratory and Fingerprint Dept, and move all the work to a new facility in Dundee.
This move is being opposed by Grampian Police, the Grampian Joint Police Board, UNISON, and several local MSPs who have been mounting a campaign against the closure.
This closure WOULD have a negative effect on crime detection and policing in the north east of Scotland. In the past few weeks alone, Aberdeen has seen three murders, the investigations of which have greatly benefitted from the forensic services being based locally. The Aberdeen forensic services enjoy close working relationships with the Police, helping to fight serious and volume crime in the north east of Scotland. As well as the negative impact on the ability to investigate crime, moving the facilities to Dundee would also have massive implications for transportation of productions, as well as scientists attending courts and crime scenes.
The SPSA, at the request of the Justice Secretary, are now carrying out a 'consultation' process, however, this process is flawed. The SPSA are not impartial, and so should not be carrying out the consultation in the first place. Secondly, they are not listening to the huge volume of reasonable and valid arguments being put forward to keep the forensic services in Aberdeen.
UNISON have now prepared an e-petition on the Scottish Parliament website and you can get to it here.
If you care about the quality of the provision of forensic science to the north-east of Scotland, PLEASE log on and sign the petition, and circulate the link to as many people as you can.'
That's the polite version.
I don't know a single person in, or associated with, Grampian Police that thinks taking all the forensic and fingerprint work and sodding off to Dundee is a good idea. The Chief Constable says: "Murder investigations in the north and north-east could be put in jeopardy if Aberdeen's forensic laboratory is closed..." How could that possibly not be a good thing?
So I asked about and got another couple of quotes***:
"The SPSA have been an absolute disaster since coming into being in April 2007. Their only success has been in destroying the top class forensic service that the Police Forces have managed to build up over the years."
"They're incompetent, disorganised, have their priorities all wrong, and don't seem to realise that their creation was to make the provision of forensic services in Scotland better - their own website claims that they wish to create 'a world class forensic service'. Bollocks. They have only succeeded in hindering an already excellent service."
"The idea to close the Aberdeen lab and move everything to Dundee is ill-conceived, and based on inaccurate, skewed data (and downright lies), and will lead only to a reduction in the quality of the forensic service provision to the north east of Scotland. The SPSA are one of the worst things to happen to Scotland in a long time."
It's pretty easy to see that there's a lot of unhappy people out there, people who're really dedicated to doing a good job, but don't believe this is the right way to go about it.
Personally, and you know, just speaking for myself, I think it's a daft idea, that no one who's going to be affected by is in favour of. The only people who seem to want this are the SPSA -- and as they're the ones doing the 'consultation' it's a fair bet which side they're going to come down on.
I've been and signed the online petition. Fancy joining me?
* And his close personal friend the Pleurisy Pixie.
** Not that there's anything wrong with Dundee, it's just not where we should be doing our forensic science work.
** From sources that I'm going to keep anonymous, because, you know, dude, this is like their jobs and I don't want to get them into trouble.