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New Statutory Code of Practice Introduced for Criminal Investigations

The Forensic Science Regulator and Home Office have collaborated to create a new statutory Code of Practice, which is to be implemented on 2nd October 2023. This joint effort aims to ensure that forensic evidence used in criminal proceedings is of the highest possible quality and outlines the necessary quality standards for forensic science activities used in investigations across England and Wales.

The new code is a consequence of the Forensic Science Regulator Act 2021, which places the Regulator on a statutory basis as a new legal entity and provides the Regulator with legal powers. The code will be a significant step forward in the way forensic science is held accountable and meets the Regulator’s requirements for quality.

As a critical component of criminal investigations, forensic science contributes to the admissible evidence presented in court. Although the intention of regulation is to reduce risk and error, forensic science carries significant risks. Failures in quality management can have serious consequences, and the remediation of these can be a challenging process, as the consequences can be organisationally damaging.

The new statutory code of practice is intended to minimise the risk of quality failures, and miscarriages of justice, ensuring that accurate and reliable evidence is produced.

What impact will it have on Digital Forensics investigations?

“The introduction of the Forensic Science Regulators Statutory Code of Practice will provide confidence in the information and evidence entered in the judiciary system and being presented to courts. It requires practitioners to be properly trained and to understand fully what forensic tools generally automate. The validation required also ensures that tools that are used frequently have been assessed and those undertaking the work understand the limitations. This minimizes the risk of misinterpretations and improves the reliability and quality of the work being produced. As with all new legislation and procedures it comes with its own challenges for Investigators, Quality teams, and the industry, but overall is a positive move for the industry.”

Vicky Saunders, Senior Digital Forensic Investigator


What about regulatory requirements and quality management?

The key elements of quality management addressed in the code are:

  • the validation of methods.
  • competence of personnel.
  • documented, controlled and auditable procedures.
  • commitment from senior leadership.
  • enabling continual improvement.

“The Forensic Science Regulators Statutory Code of Practice is a significant milestone in the way forensic science is held accountable and meets Regulatory’ requirements for quality. The Code was approved by both houses of Parliament earlier this year and comes into force on 2nd October 2023. The Code sets quality standard requirements for Forensic Science Activities (FSA’s) related to the investigation of crime and the criminal justice system in England and Wales. The majority of the FSR Code requirements remain largely unchanged from the previous non-statutory version. However, there are some major changes within the new Codes such as the addition of the Senior Accountable Individual role. To ensure CYFOR have accounted for all changes a Gap analysis is being undertaken to allow for the transition from compliance with Issue 7 of the FSR non-statutory code to Issue 1 of the FSR Statutory Code.”

– Shruti Patel, Senior Quality Officer

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