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Forensic science service provider models - Is there a 'best' option?

Abstract

The form and functions of a forensic science service provider are determined by interactions between:  • the legal system under which it operates;  • the law enforcement agency or agencies which it services;  • the policies of the government of the country concerned;  • the historical legacy of the evolution of services in that country. In New Zealand, the forensic science services that support the criminal justice system are provided mainly by ESR, a Crown Research Institute (CRI), established under an Act of Parliament that sets out principles of operation. As a CRI, ESR operates as a financially self-sustaining, crown-owned company under a fee for service arrangement. This is an unusual service provider model internationally. In this paper, the strengths and weaknesses of this model will be described and contrasted with other options. This organisational model fosters independence, management flexibility and responsiveness to changes and challenges. This will be illustrated with descriptions of forensic science developments in New Zealand and the challenges associated with these, including the introduction of LCN (low template DNA) services, approaches to evidence interpretation, familial matching, collaborative projects with NZ Police on improving the effectiveness of forensic science and initiatives to add value to the forensic science services delivered.

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