Police officers may be forced to store blood and urine samples taken from drink drivers in the fridge, while the government-owned Forensic Science Service is shut down.
A memo from the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has advised chief constables across the UK that the Forensic Science Service (FSS) will no longer process any samples taken under the Road Traffic Act.
In the memo, leaked to the national press yesterday (10 February), the NPIA advised it hoped to find "alternative suppliers" within seven working days. Chief constables were urged not to make their own arrangements.
When the decision to close the FSS was announced in December 2010, Crime Reduction Minister James Brokenshire assured the public that there would be an "orderly transition" to new service providers.
He said the FSS was being shut down because it was making a loss of £2 million a year, and he felt private companies could provide the police with a more efficient service.
"They're seeing better turnaround in terms of the way in which forensics are being processed," he said.
In January dozens of scientists wrote to The Times to express concern that the move will mean the UK will no longer be a world leader in forensic science.
Professor Morling, of the University of Copenhagen, wrote: "It is clear that an organisation that offers world-leading research will never be able to compete with commercial suppliers that focus on the lowest cost and highest efficiency. Nor should it."
Although the majority of motorists suspected of drink-driving are breathalysed, some refuse or are too drunk to give a sample. These drivers are arrested and taken to a police station, where urine and blood tests are often used to determine the extent of the drunkeness.
Police told to put drink driving samples on ice (Daily Telegraph)
More on the penalties for drink driving (Findlaw.co.uk)
Overview of breath, urine and blood tests (Findlaw.co.uk)
Find a UK solicitor in your area. (Findlaw.co.uk)