The announced closure of the Forensic Science Service - a leading research centre based in Birmingham, UK - will harm research, innovation and even the justice system, according to forensic scientists.
The decision to "wind down" operations to a close by March 2012 has been met by "disbelief and dismay" by campaigners who remain wary of the UK Home Office's claim to "ensure the orderly wind-down of FSS does not impact on police service customers or the wider criminal justice system".
"The reputation of forensic science in the UK will undoubtedly diminish," Peter Gill, forensic geneticist at the University of Strathclyde, told the BBC. "The lack of research means that we will be lagging behind the rest of the world, and justice will suffer because laboratories in the UK won't be able to offer the most up-to-date techniques in order to solve serious crimes."
Mike Clancy, deputy general secretary of Prospect, a union representing over 1000 forensic scientists, agrees that the UK criminal justice system will face a blow.
"[The government's] actions will destroy a world-class body that is the envy of every police force in the world, in the name of saving a few million pounds," Clancy said.
Further concerns were voiced by a group of over 30 forensic scientists in a letter to British newspaper The Times yesterday. Alec Jeffreys, pioneer of DNA fingerprinting, was among the group who urged the UK government to reconsider the closure.
"The FSS has truly been a leader in European forensic practice as well as research," say the letter's signatories. "There can be no doubt that professional expertise cannot be maintained without continuing research and education."
Niels Morling, president of the International Society for Forensic Genetics, coordinated the letter. "So many of us have benefited from the research, development and education provided by the FSS - a worldwide network of scientists is grateful to the FSS and to British society," he told the paper.
The group concluded by urging the government to reverse the decision.