Police leads have responded to an HMICFRS report published today (1st December), which claims forces are “overwhelmed and ineffective” in digital forensics.

The report led by Matt Parr, which is ‘an inspection into how well the police and other agencies use digital forensics in their investigations’, makes nine recommendations. These include improvements to the operating model, governance, funding and skills.

Welcoming the report, FCN’s interim managing director, John Armstrong, highlights the importance of a coordinated national approach:

“Inspectors are absolutely right on the challenges they raise – accreditation, skills and a large backlog of devices all pose major risks.

“As policing’s only national multi-discipline forensic science organisation, FCN is here to help wherever we can.

“When the report talks about good practice not being widely shared, or a gulf in performance, or the need for a co-ordinated response to accreditation… these are literally the things FCN is designed to help resolve.

“We’re committed to working with local forces and national NPCC portfolios and programmes to help take on and respond the recommendations.”

FCN’s digital forensics activities to date include the creation of policing’s first digital forensics apprenticeship, which is scheduled to be available from the end of March 2023.

In accreditation, FCN has helped four forces prepare for UKAS assessment for digital forensic lab activities, with Humberside’s Head of DFU saying FCN’s support “significantly contributed to our success”.

FCN also continues to provide vital forensic expertise to national NPCC programmes and projects including new mobile tools for RASSO cases, and some automation in child sexual exploitation cases

Commenting on the report, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for digital forensics, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Gibson said:

“Today, virtually every crime has a digital element, often involving vast amounts of complex data. This presents policing with a serious challenge. We recognise this, and the need to do more, and are taking action.

“The NPCC published the Digital Forensic Science Strategy in July 2020, laying out a road map for improving the provision and use of digital forensics across law enforcement. In line with this, a range of activity is under way.”

APCC Digital Forensics Lead, Darryl Preston, highlighted the importance of police forces meeting standards set by the Forensic Science Regulator, and added:

“Forensics is vital and underpins our entire criminal justice system. If that goes wrong, our criminal justice system fails.  It is vital improvements are made across the board so that policing does not fall behind in this digital revolution.

“We must see urgent improvements made and these standards met if we are to avoid delays in perpetrators being brought to justice and if we are to truly deliver a service that victims rightly expect and deserve.”

Media coverage of the report features at independent.co.uk and elsewhere.

Find out more about FCN’s digital forensics work