Warning over forensics service axe
Britain's justice system will take a "backward step" if the Government closes its Forensic Science Service, experts have warned.
Winding up the service - which has helped snare killers such as Soham murderer Ian Huntley and Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright - would see the country lose its position as world leader in crime-scene investigation, they suggest.
And the quality of British justice would suffer because the free market would not provide some more expensive forms of analysis crucial to police investigations, they wrote in a letter to the Times.
Meanwhile, the Home Office's decision to break-up the Forensic Science Service (FSS) has been met with "disbelief and dismay" around the world, they claim.
The letter, signed by 33 leading forensic scientists, follows a backlash earlier this month against the planned closure of the service which makes an operating loss of £2 million per month.
It was signed by 33 international forensic scientists, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, who pioneered DNA fingerprinting, a technique credited with revolutionising criminal investigation in the 1980s.
Professor Niels Morling, president of the International Society for Forensic Genetics, who coordinated the letter, said the appeal to save the FSS had drawn support from scientists around the world. "So many of us have benefited from the research, development and education offered by the FSS - a worldwide network of scientists is grateful to the FSS and to British society," he told the paper.
The FSS has been a Government-owned company since 2005 and its investigators have been involved in a series of successful high-profile prosecutions such as that of paedophile Roy Whiting who murdered eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000.
In their letter, the scientists claim the service ensured Sir Alec's DNA discovery could be transformed into practical crime-scene analysis, now used across the globe. "These advances paved the way for the introduction of national DNA databases to routinely match crime-scene material to suspects with previous convictions ... The FSS has truly been a leader in European forensic practice as well as research," they said. "There can be no doubt that professional expertise cannot be maintained without continuing research and education," they wrote.
According to the Home Office, the FSS is likely to run out of money by January. It is expected to be wound up by March 2012, costing around 1,600 jobs.