NPCC Forensic Lead, Chief Constable Nick Dean, looks back on the past year in forensics.

This has been a year of exceptionally busy work across the NPCC Forensic Portfolio, which the FCN closely supports and reports into. Four areas spring to mind as particular priorities in policing and beyond.

The first is the private-sector forensic marketplace, an absolutely vital and yet often problematic part of what forensics provides to policing and criminal justice. It has been reassuring to see work being done at a national level to prepare for reform in this area, coordinated by the FCN. As the work continues this coming year, we see this within NPCC as a critical moment for the market.

Secondly, the topic of accreditation continues to hold influence. The Forensic Science Regulator’s first statutory code came into effect in October 2023 and police forces have been working hard to transition into the new standard, ably supported by guidance, visits and national exercises by the FCN. There is still work to be done, but I’ve been impressed with the way policing has embraced this change. Where appropriate, I would strongly urge forces to contact the FCN for any help in this vital matter.

Thirdly, digital forensics. The challenges here are vast, both in terms of complexity and volume, but great work is being done across the policing community, from digitising parts of crime scene investigation, to research projects on AI to combat online harms. We need to keep up the momentum. I’m delighted to see that Jayne Meir, Deputy Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, has very recently stepped into the role of NPCC Digital Forensic Lead, taking over from CC Gibson – my thanks to the latter for his years of effort and dedication in this area. CC Gibson will continue to oversee the forensic marketplace portfolio.

And finally, you will no doubt have seen recent reports on serious acquisitive crime such as burglary and theft. It’s clear to those of us in the NPCC that, as the police explores all reasonable lines of enquiry, forensics is a key part of those enquiries and touches upon nearly every type of investigation in some way.

Much of the above has the attention of Ministers at the highest level of government, and it also generates significant interest in the media and online. And it is of course of the utmost important to the public and to victims of crime.

I was pleased to see the FCN make its successful bid to be funded directly by the NPCC’s operating budget. I have been something of a stuck record for the past two years thanking FCN for its contribution to this area of policing, but the reason I keep mentioning it is that I don’t take it for granted, and people across police, suppliers and the wider community shouldn’t either.

I’m also pleased to see that APCC Forensic Lead, Darryl Preston, remains in place following the recent elections – he has always had a keen in interest in forensics and the FCN, and the discipline will benefit from his support for another term.

I expect the following year will be incredibly busy as well, but I’m confident the portfolio and the wider community are in the best position for years to tackle the challenges ahead. The FCN’s 2024/25 delivery plan detailed in this report, has my full support and I’m sure that it will continue to contribute greatly with these challenges.

Chief Constable Nick Dean, NPCC Forensic Lead

Download FCN's 2023/24 annual report.