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UK scientific advisor was not consulted over forensic service closure

Britain’s crime prevention minister has defended the decision to close the country’s respected Forensic Science Service (FSS), as his chief scientific advisor admitted he had not been consulted on the move.

Conservative minister James Brokenshire told a parliamentary inquiry into the closure of the FSS that there was “no formal assessment of the R&D element” made before the decision was taken, but that it would be wrong to suggest that research in forensics had been ignored.

Although previous witnesses before the committee have stated that the demise of the FSS will harm both the UK’s standing in the world and forensics research in general, Brokenshire told the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee that there were a number of other bodies doing good work in the area.

“Innovation is by no means restricted to the FSS and other suppliers have developed important new tools,” he said in his written evidence.

Also appearing before the committee today was Bernard Silverman, the chief scientific advisor to the Home Office. Under questioning Silverman admitted that he had not been consulted before the decision to close the FSS was announced.

“My understanding is the decision was taken on legal and commercial grounds and it isn’t within the chief scientific advisor’s remit to advise on those matters,” he said. “I didn’t see the process as unreasonable.”

Silverman said he hoped to have completed a review of forensic research in the UK within two weeks. It seemed likely, he said, that he would be urging academia to work in a more joined up manner and to look for better communication from funding agencies about how they approach research proposals on forensics.

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