Science keeps us one step ahead of criminals - it must stay that way, warns RSC CEO

01 July 2011

Science keeps us one step ahead of criminals, and keeping that advantage should be the central goal of Government forensic science plans, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said today.

Dr Robert Parker made the comments in response to the Science & Technology Select Committee's report on the closure of the Forensic Science Service, to which the RSC submitted evidence.

"Vital crime-fighting tools like DNA fingerprinting wouldn't exist today without the research expertise at the Forensic Science Service (FSS)," said Dr Parker.

"Should the Government continue its plans to wind down the FSS, it cannot allow that expertise to be lost - in both the wealth of accumulated data in the FSS archives, and the skills of the talented scientists who conduct research and development there.

"Science keeps us one step ahead of criminals, so to make sure our criminal justice system is the best it can be, the Government must ensure we keep that advantage.

"It's excellent to note the Select Committee has highlighted many of the issues raised by the RSC in its evidence to the committee, especially concerning the integrity of analytical work.

"As more work is done in-house there is a real risk that, under the pressure of police funding cuts, lower quality analytical work in unaccredited facilities could lead to unsafe prosecutions and an unacceptable erosion of public trust in forensic evidence.

"The Government must now carefully consider not only the future of the FSS itself, but the base of world-class forensic science research and development that it represents."

The RSC strongly agrees that closure of the FSS could result in the loss of a significant source of scientific expertise in the UK with wider implications for the criminal justice system.

As the Select Committee's report indicates, the deadline of March 2012 for the closure of FSS is not realistic as this will not allow sufficient time for the further consultation required to formulate a wider strategy for forensic science.

The RSC is pleased that the report acknowledges that there has been insufficient consideration given to forensic R&D and agrees with the call for a research budget for forensic science. We share the disappointment outlined in the report that the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Home Office was not consulted.

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