The government wants to close the archive of the Forensic Science Service – all that is now left of nationally organised forensic provision, forcing each individual police forces across England and Wales to maintain its own storage system without extra funding.
The archive costs just £2 million to run and holds nearly 2 million case files, some going back over 30 years. It is regularly used to investigate unsolved crimes and in appeals against unsafe convictions, and has been characterised by the Association of Chief Police Officers as “a safe, secure and efficient facility”.
Andrew Miller MP, chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, has warned: “They have destroyed a very valuable resource. They have put nothing in its place and miscarriages of justice will occur.” He also pointed out the potential effect on future scientific advances that up until now have been possible with a central facility.
Alastair Logan of the Law Society, who was involved in the freeing of the Guildford Four, has described the closure as an act of vandalism and has asked how police forces will know, for example, about different rapes committed by the same person in different parts of the country. Dr Peter Bull of the University of Oxford, an expert in forensic sedimentology, says the new measures are totally inadequate and could lead to major miscarriages of justice. He called the decision “horrendous, absolutely horrendous”.
Separately, new Home Office figures reveal that police officer numbers are at their lowest for nine years with a fall of 5,000 in the last year alone. The number of civilian police staff and community support officers has also fallen. ■■