ISO 17025 For Forensic Laboratories
Quality is Vital for Justice
When a crime is committed, it is important that the public feel sufficiently confident in the legal system to report it. Our trust in the Police, court procedures and the jury system is dependent on fair and open trials, in which the guilty are convicted and the innocent acquitted.
When a case comes to court, forensic evidence carries considerable weight. The scientific expert is asked not only to present the evidence, but also to provide an evaluative opinion on the strength of the evidence.
This scientific evidence is seen as hard, unbiased fact by the jury and it can sway opinion. As such it is often subject to intense scrutiny. The expert on the stand has to be completely confident that the correct processes have been followed throughout the collection, storage, processing and analysis of this evidence. They must also be certain that if the same tests were repeated, that there would be no change in the outcome.
The Implications of Poor Laboratory Systems
Over the years there have been countless cases where justice has not been served due to contaminated evidence or incorrect procedures being carried out. For some victims, their case will never be solved and this can make it incredibly difficult for them to rebuild their lives.
When the press reports a case in which an individual who was highly likely to be guilty has walked free due to unreliable forensic evidence, it also impacts on public confidence in the legal system.
Calibration and Lab Competence
The implementation of quality systems in accordance with ISO 17025 is a legal requirement for forensic laboratories in countries across the EU and the USA. Addressing Calibration and Lab Competence, this quality standard supports the use of robust systems and procedures to support good practice in the storage, processing and analysis of evidence.
Achieving ISO 17025 accreditation isn’t only important for providing expert evidence with a reliable scientific base. Effective systems also help to improve efficiency and productivity, which is essential for managing an ever growing volume of samples on a limited budget.
If we want to live in a country where justice is rightfully served, it is essential that work undertaken in forensic laboratories is underpinned with this quality standard.
ISO 17025 Laboratory Competence and Calibration
This standard is not only used for Forensic Laboratories however. Any operation where a product needs to be calibrated or any organisation that has test facilities within its processes, can benefit from these systems (whether or not they want to go all the way and gain accreditation).
1. So a shower manufacturer might want it for their temperature modules so that they can guarantee that they will not scald or freeze customers.
2. A water utility company will use this standard to demonstrate that its testing laboratories are operated correctly.
3. Developers will use the standard to ensure that they can justify the claims they use when creating new concepts and products.
4. A testing laboratory might calibrate its own instruments under this standard so that it can demonstrate that they are correct when being used to calibrate other organisations’ tools.
5. Many companies, such as acoustic engineers, use this standard to set themselves apart from others in the field as a competitive advantage.
6. And, as mentioned, forensic laboratories are obliged to use this standard before their work can be considered admissible in a court of law across the EU
ISO 17025 was chosen as a legal requirement for such laboratories because of its effectiveness in identifying issues and errors while cutting wastage and facilitating mass processes. ISO 17025 has areas in common with other ISO standards – namely that of supporting good working practice, ensuring that the customer’s needs are addressed and meeting the organisational developmental aims.
This standard also specifically ensures that the results derived from the organisation involved are not just repeatable, but are produced in a scientifically ‘safe’ and justifiable methodology. Since they are based on the best global practice, as are all ISO standards, it is hardly surprising that nations have chosen to use them as the controlling approaches in such key areas in our lives as the determination of justice. Consequently, it is clear why other companies see this as a great way to set themselves apart from the competition and to satisfy the concerns of customers.