THE country’s leading DNA experts have warned that Britain’s justice system will take a ‘backward step’ if the Forensic Science Service closes.

The service, which employs 160 people at its Chorley base, loses £2million a month and the Government has announced an ‘orderly wind-down’.

The Chorley facility was already scheduled for a March 2011 closure, but staff hoping to relocate to other sites were dealt a blow earlier this month.

The FSS will run out of money in January and is planned for full closure by March 2012, according to the Home Office, with the loss of 1,600 jobs.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, 33 leading forensic scientists claimed the free market would not provide more expensive forms of analysis crucial to police investigations.

The Chorley base at Washington Hall, Euxton, has helped crack high profile local and national cases.

FSS scientists in Chorley helped convict the killers of Sophie Lancaster.

Their work also proved that the mother of abducted schoolgirl Shannon Matthews had been drugging her before her alleged kidnap.

The letter, coordinated by Professor Niels Morling, president of the International Society for Forensic Genetics, called for the Government to reverse its decision and said the proposed breakup has been met with ‘disbelief and dismay’ around the world.

It was signed by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, who pioneered DNA fingerprinting, a technique credited with revolutionising criminal investigation in the 1980s.