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New Scientist: Forensic marriage could preserve the UK’s reputation

By Sunny May 21st, 2011 News No Comments

Shaoni Bhattacharya, contributor, New Scientist

This may not be Westminster Abbey, and there’s no Wills or Kate, declared veteran TV presenter Nick Ross at London’s Science Museum last night. But there is, he went on to say, a beautiful wedding in store.

After a long courtship the public and private sectors in forensic science in the UK and Ireland are coming together, said Ross, speaking at the launch of the Association of Forensic Science Providers (AFSP).

The launch is significant because the UK’s forensic services are in turmoil, and their future uncertain, because the government’s has announced that it will close its leading forensic research centre, the Forensic Science Service, in March next year.

At the launch, there was a good deal of uncertainty about what will happen after the FSS closes. The work done there has helped make the UK a leader in forensic science, and many have raised concerns that the demise of the FSS will mean the nation loses that reputation.

Another worry is what will happen to the FSS’s unparalleled archive of forensic evidence. As a public body the FSS kept evidence from cases going back to the 1940s. This has meant that as new technologies develop, over 200 “cold cases” – some going back 20 or 30 years – have been solved using this archive material.

Private companies like LGC Forensics and Cellmark do keep paperwork on cases for many years, depending on the crime; for example, for 30 years in a homicide case. They give the physical evidence back to the police to store.

But people at the launch were hopeful that the AFSP would help bolster the UK’s position. It brings together 90 per cent of the UK and Ireland’s forensic services, though at the moment the FSS is one of its four public-sector members. Read the complete article on the Short Sharp Science blog at

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