New guidelines on Streamlined Forensic Reporting (SFR) have been launched today (31st July 2020) with the aim of improving case management and outcomes, in the biggest step forward in SFR’s seven-year history.
SFR comprises a set of guidance and templates which enable investigators, scientists and prosecutors to comply with Criminal Procedure Rules, in the interests of justice.
SFR templates focus on key conclusions from forensic evidence that are simple for juries to understand, rather than providing lengthy reports. They also allow defence to swiftly accept or challenge evidence, speeding up cases and enabling faster justice.
These new national guidelines provide practitioners with best practice reflecting recent changes in the Criminal Procedure Rules and case management, Forensic Science Regulator requirements and a new approach to declarations of status of UKAS accreditation.
SFR has other wide-ranging benefits for the whole Criminal Justice System (CJS) such as improving outcomes by ensuring compliance, enabling a consistent national approach, applying robust pre-trial management, and creating cost savings – all without impacting on the quality of forensic science.
At the request of the SFR Board, the Forensic Capability Network (FCN) has taken on management and oversight of SFR guidance on behalf of policing and the CJS.
All guidance, forms and templates are available on the FCN website’s SFR webpage. This is the first ever time SFR guidance and documentation has been hosted in one place and publicly available to download.
The new suite of forms was created through a period of extensive consultation with forensic service providers (FSPs), police forces, CPS, the defence and the judiciary.
Launching the new SFR guidelines, FCN Science Director, Vickie Burgin, said:
“This is an exciting step forward for SFR, and we hope FCN can improve this important criminal justice process even further in future. These new guidelines are the result of true collaboration across policing and criminal justice. Thank you to the Senior Presiding Judge, subject matter experts, police forces, suppliers and others who contributed. We are listening, so please get in touch to help us shape the future of SFR.”
Forms are accompanied by a new, comprehensive guidance document that explains the overriding objectives of SFR, the case management process, how each form should (and shouldn't) be used, and specific guidance for each forensic discipline currently approved for reporting within SFR.
The template forms are available for use with immediate effect and transitioning to these new forms is encouraged as soon as possible so forces and FSPs are compliant and mitigate risk of challenge within the CJS.
FCN invites people in policing, the CJS, FSPs, defence and judiciary to get involved in shaping the next stages of SFR in coming months.
FCN will also work with forces and FSPs to understand their technical readiness for using the new forms and help develop approaches for them to be compliant.
The new guidance and impact of implementation will be reviewed in January 2021 to ensure the process is working, address any issues and capture benefits realised as a result of the new approach.
The new SFR guidance, forms and examples are available on the SFR webpage.
To get involved in future SFR reviews or if you have any feedback, please contact us.