August 31, 2023

The Forensic Science Regulator Act 2021 – ‘The SIOs' Need-to-Knows’ 

With the FSR Act 2021 finally coming into force on October 2nd we thought a refresher on its implications for law enforcement and prosecution teams was very timely.

With the FSR Act 2021 finally coming into force next month (October 2nd), here's a quick refresher on what that means in practical terms: 

  • The FSR now has statutory powers to ensure that the provision of forensic science services across the criminal justice system is subject to an appropriate regime of scientific quality standards. This compels those conducting Forensic Science Activities such as Forensic Service Providers (FSPs) to comply with quality standard requirements where previously he relied on 'soft power', merely encouraging them to adhere to the Code of Practice. The FSR Act has introduced powers to sanction FSPs who do not comply or who fall below published statutory codes.
  • The FSR's new Code of Practice represents the 'published standards' and comprises an extensive list of Forensic Science Activities (FSAs). The Code sets out what is required for FSPs to conduct an end-to-end examination for each FSA; every FSP now needs to be able to demonstrate compliance to each stage of the FSA as defined by the Code.   
  • The Code has the status of being admissible in criminal proceedings; and, by inference, without compliance potentially inadmissible. But it is widely acknowledged that substantial gaps exist across the country’s police forces in terms of accreditation and/or end-to-end operation in accordance with the Codes. Ultimately this could see SIOs facing admissibility challenges of digital forensic evidence on any of their prosecutions.  
  • The Ministry of Justice is developing a Risk Categorisation Model (RCM) for completion by FSPs. It is intended to help inform the Courts, CPS and Defence of the levels of risk associated with forensic evidence in each investigation. In doing so and if adopted, the RCM will highlight aspects of the Forensic Services that are non-compliant to the Codes.
  • The FSR has authority to investigate any person carrying out an FSA that creates substantial risk of adversely affecting any investigation, or impeding or prejudicing criminal justice procedures. The 'mood music' from the FSR is that he will be proactive in this regard and will signal a move away from the era of ‘carrot’ to one of ‘stick’. 
Where does that leave SIOs?

Because the FSR now has statutory powers, non-compliance with the Code is simply not an option. And given that not every force will have the ability or appetite to equip themselves fully to handle all FSAs to the requisite standard, there is an expectation that suitably qualified FSPs in the private sector will have to step up. 
CCL has been informed we have successfully completed all of the necessary work to transition to the new Code of Practice, compliant in all FSAs within the scope of our ISO accreditation, ready for enactment on 2nd October 2023. With our Cell Site analysis also ready for UKAS assessment, we are a viable outlet, for all work, selected work, or when turnaround or volume pressures demand instant outsourced capacity.
To learn more about how we can assist you with the challenges presented by the FSR Act 2021, visit our DF services here or get in touch via our Contact Us page.

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