High Court judgement makes a scapegoat of chemistry

24 July 2008

The chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry has criticised a High Court ruling that bans a 'suspected terrorist' in the UK from studying chemistry.

Dr Richard Pike said: "There's a vitally important principle in this issue which must not be overlooked, which is the need to avoid depicting, wrongly, school chemistry as a starting point for attempts by potential young terrorists to produce explosives.

"There is nothing on the AS Level chemistry course that cannot be found easily on the web and through other means.

"I would stress emphatically that the Royal Society of Chemistry would never support any principle that we thought might threaten the British public; but not to object to the High Court ruling would be to accept the misleading image of school chemistry being a subject of particular value to potential terrorists.

"That would be a dangerous precedent which would have the effect of making the public wary of a subject that is the central science essential to the research and development of medicines, foods, fuels and materials and addressing environmental issues.

"In effect the court is making a scapegoat of chemistry, which emerges from the judgement with an image that can only encourage people to see it as a threat to life and to public security."

He added: "We in the chemistry community believe in the need for principles to apply in every way in life. It is right that we fight terror. But we also believe in truth - and the truth in the case of AS level chemistry is that there is nothing in it that can be said to be a special tool for terrorist activities. 

"We cannot allow such a suggestion to remain unchallenged because such a misconception would work against the public good now and in the future."

"We will be making our concerns known to the Home Office at the earliest opportunity."

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