Constructing a profession in the contemporary context: a case study of forensic practitioners
Health and Social Care University of Lincoln London, UK
In 2000, a new non statutory council for the registration of forensic practitioners (CRFP) was established in the UK. The initiative came from within the science community but was supported by the government Justice Minister, and by judicial elites. It has been funded by the Home Office and in terms of institutional structure. follows the ten-plate for professional regulation in the UK. For sociologists, the council provides a useful case study of the creation of a new professional governance body, largely in response to a perceived need within the justice system for a body to accredit practitioners and uphold standards. Over recent decades, new technologies for assessing forensic evidence used in court and other settings, have developed rapidly, creating a market for new forms of expertise. Expert evidence has to be credible, otherwise. institutions as well as practitioners of a skill or technique are brought into disrepute. In the wake of high profile cases contested within court and professional regulatory systems involving the use of new technologies, new regulatory governance systems have developed, including CRFP. The paper will: 1) describe how governmental and interested professional regulatory bodies have defined the field of forensic expertise, who comes within the remit and how the problem of 'expertise in evidence' has been framed:
2) outline the regulatory model adopted for CRFP and how this draws on models for professional regulation within the UK and may differ from other systems;
3) The governance issues encountered by CRFP to date and how these relate to shifts in thinking about regulation.
Drawing on sociological theories of the professions, the paper will take a public interest perspective but also identify competing institutional interests and the impact of wider market forces on professionalisation. In terms of method, it will draw on documentary sources and collect data from CRFP ofice holders. The analysis will pay particular attention to competing discourses in the policy process, the institutional architecture of governance and the practical problems of topdown regulation within the market for these expert services.