A restructure of the Forensic Capability Network has been completed, enabling the organisation to deliver to its new remit set by an independent NPCC strategic review last year.

Under the new streamlined structure FCN will operate with two directorates instead of four, and the role of CEO will be replaced by a managing director.

From September, FCN’s two directorates will be forensic science development, led by director Vickie Burgin, and quality and performance, led by director Deborah Pendry. Its operations and commercial directorates will close, with activities and resources being integrated elsewhere across the organisation.

As FCN has a narrower remit and is more community led, the role of the CEO does not form part of the future structure and Jo Ashworth OBE will leave FCN. Jo has been FCN’s CEO since its launch in 2020, before which she was Programme Director for the NPCC Transforming Forensics programme from 2017.

FCN’s chief of staff, John Armstrong, will take on the role of interim managing director to run the organisation on a day-to-day basis. John has worked in forensics in policing for 38 years, including as a Metropolitan Police crime scene investigator, scientific support manager at Surrey Police, and in the National Policing Improvement Agency, Home Office and NPCC Transforming Forensics programme.

NPCC Forensic Lead, Chief Constable Nick Dean, said:

“I would like to extend a huge thank you to Jo Ashworth as she leaves FCN. She has been a fantastic leader with real resilience, and has supported me over the past year since I took on the forensic portfolio.

“The completion of FCN’s new structure marks an important line in the sand – FCN’s recommendations from last year’s review have now been implemented. The team has a new remit, a new structure, and is ready to deliver.”

The restructure completes a year-long process in which the police community has set a new direction of travel for FCN.

In July 2021, an independent NPCC strategic review into forensics was published by former Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Craig Mackey. In the review, the police community proposed a more focused remit for FCN on forensic quality and science, aligned to the needs of police forces and the criminal justice system.

A group of chief constables and forensic leaders took forward the review’s recommendations over several months, led by NPCC Forensic Lead, Chief Constable Nick Dean, and NPCC Forensic Community Reference Group chair, Michelle Painter.

A new structure aligned to the review was then proposed in an independent report compiled by the Scottish Police Authority and agreed by police chiefs and forensic leaders.

FCN’s outbound CEO, Jo Ashworth, said:

“I do leave with a heavy heart, but I fully support FCN’s direction of travel. I never started on this journey thinking it would be easy and I still have a passion for this organisation, its vision and its future.

“I’m confident that FCN will thrive and I’ve no doubt it will continue to be a critical part of policing’s infrastructure. There is such passion, leadership and expertise in the team – I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved together.”

At the moment, FCN is hosted by Dorset Police and funded by the Home Office through reallocation of the police grant. Its total budget this year is around £3.7m.

Work is underway between Dorset Police, NPCC, Home Office and FCN to develop long-term arrangements for funding and hosting.

More news to follow at www.fcn.police.uk/latest.