Activity on SFR guidelines across policing and criminal justice continues at pace after the latest guidance was published three months ago, according to FCN’s Lead Scientist, Debbie Sharp. Find out more about its support from the Senior Presiding Judge, upcoming virtual events, and a new release planned for January 2021.
New Streamlined Forensic Reporting guidelines were launched on 31st July 2020 and since then the documentation has been accessed 4,800 times. The latest publication on the FCN website was the first ever time SFR documentation was publicly available to download and hosted in one place.
Introduced in 2012, SFR is an approach for entering forensic evidence into the criminal justice system which focuses on key conclusions that are simple for juries to understand, and which speed up cases by allowing the defence to quickly accept or challenge evidence.
This SFR process is delivered through a set of guidance and templates used by investigators, scientists and prosecutors. The FCN team manages and oversees SFR guidance with discipline leads from the FCN membership including:
- Biology led by Gemma Escott, Eurofins Forensic Services
- CSI led by Julian Revitt-Smith, Norfolk Constabulary
- Digital led by Eddie Fisher, Metropolitan Police Service
- Drugs led by Dean Ames, Metropolitan Police Service
- Fingerprints led by David Wicks, Essex Police
- Firearms led by Elaine Sidgwick, Metropolitan Police Service
- Footwear led by Danyela Kellett, Lancashire Constabulary
- Toxicology led by Emma Pagdin, Eurofins Forensic Services
In September, the guidance received a letter of support from Senior Presiding Judge, Kate Thirlwall, confirming the judiciary’s ongoing support of the SFR forms and approach. The Rt Hon Lady Justice Thirlwall said:
“I am very pleased to continue that support for this important process which enables the effective and timely reporting of forensic information into the Criminal Justice System. I am sure this will assist all those involved in court proceedings to use the SFR process effectively.”
Other developments in the past three months include technical readiness work which is taking place to assist forces in embedding the new forms into their case management systems.
There has also been a successful pilot implemented by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) related to fire investigation, which the FCN team is now looking to roll out nationally.
A successful virtual event on SFR was held in September attracting 130 attendees, with future events planned on SFR for digital and accreditation. Working groups including force discipline leads and forensic service providers are due to meet on 17th November and 10th December.
To ensure a consistent approach across policing and criminal justice, the FCN team is also requesting that police forces provide details of their CPS regional contacts.
All activity is feeding into a new release of the guidelines in January 2021 which is expected to include new forms for use in a medical setting, updated digital guidance and reformatted forms. In the meantime, an accreditation briefing is due to be shared in mid-November.
FCN’s Debbie Sharp said:
“Three months ago we asked for feedback and input from FCN members and the wider criminal justice community to continually improve the SFR process. We’re really pleased with the positive responses received. Thank you again to everyone helping to deliver SFR, especially our discipline leads from Essex, Lancashire, the Met, Norfolk and Eurofins.
“We are still looking to understand from police forces who their CPS regional contacts are, so we can build a national picture for SFR. If your force hasn’t yet provided this information, then please do so.”
Police forces looking to update the FCN team with their CPS regional contacts should get in touch with FCN Scientific Officer, Paul Roberts, on firstname.lastname@example.org.