The Home Office has published a detailed 13-point Action Plan with a view towards improving police forensics. These commitments are designed to enhance public confidence, support the criminal justice system and ensure the quality and stability of forensics provision going forward.
The Action Plan is published alongside the findings of a Home Office-commissioned review into the provision of forensic services in policing, such as DNA and fingerprint evidence. It finds that urgent action is required to make the current system sustainable.
Nick Hurd, Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, said: “Forensic science is an invaluable tool for bringing criminals to justice. We must ensure it’s sustainable, works at a high standard and has the confidence of the public. This is why I commissioned this review and we’re now taking action to strengthen the market.”
The review makes a series of recommendations, including making providers adhere to the quality standards set by Dr Gillian Tully, the Forensic Science Regulator, and ensuring that the market’s commercial models are sustainable and open to investment.
The Government is committed to meeting these aims with its 13-point implementation plan. This includes:
*stabilising the market through a new and long-term commercial strategy delivered by the Forensics Capability Network to better co-ordinate police forces’ approach to forensics
*continuing to support Chris Green MP’s Private Member’s Bill to give the regulator statutory powers of enforcement, as well as supporting the regulator’s accreditation timetable
*working with national bodies – such as UK Research and Innovation – and alongside the Ministry of Justice to establish a new oversight mechanism for R&D
The Home Office carried out the review jointly with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
In a joint statement, the APCC’s forensics lead Martyn Underhill PCC and Deputy Lead Mark Burns-Williamson PCC said: “The effectiveness of our criminal justice system is often dependent on the evidence obtained by high quality dedicated forensic experts that help keep our communities safe. We are world leaders in the provision of forensic science, but we have recently seen significant issues that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. This review highlights those issues and provides recommendations and actions to ensure we continue to provide excellent forensic provision into the future. The APCC will continue to work with police chiefs and the Government to ensure investment in forensic science is increased and that this is reflected in the forthcoming Spending Review.”
Chief constable James Vaughan QPM, the NPCC’s lead for forensic science, stated: “We welcome the findings of the forensic review and are now working to implement the recommendations which will assist us to stabilise the market, while also making further improvements around quality standards and accreditation. The Transforming Forensics Programme, which secured police transformation funding, is already delivering capability in line with the findings of the review. It provides a long-term opportunity to ensure this vital area of policing and criminal justice is sustainable and will enable forces to achieve and maintain high quality, efficient and standardised processes, while acting as a single voice on behalf of policing with key stakeholders.”