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“Vague, incomplete and lacking a vision” – Commons Select Committee verdict on the Government’s Forensic Strategy

29 September 2016

… how does this impact on Digital Forensics?

A report from The Science and Technology Committee have demanded that the government redraft its Forensic Strategy. The current document has been described as vague, incomplete and ‘’lacking a vision for forensic services or a route map to deliver improvements.’’

Chair of the committee, Dr Tania Mathias said, “The Government’s Forensics Strategy was already two years late, but further delay would have been preferable to this inadequate document. The weaknesses in this document raise the question of whether the Forensics Strategy stands up as a strategy. It is missing a coherent vision for forensic services and a route-map to deliver it.

“Government should acknowledge that the Forensics Strategy is an incomplete document which leaves too many issues under-developed to constitute a coherent description of the Government’s policy and direction in this important area.”

Main criticisms of the current strategy… 
The Forensic Strategy has been criticised for failing to meet a range of criteria that is necessary for all police and forensic service providers to follow concisely.

–          Key areas such as ‘scoping work’ is still underway in its development within the strategy.

–          The strategy is seen to be vague when regarding a need for a more consistent, national approach when police forces negotiate the procurement of forensic services from the private sector.

–          There is strong requirement for more research into the quality of forensic science and its role in the criminal justice system.

Quality standards…
At the moment, police forces that provide forensic services ‘in-house’ do not have to meet accredited standards, compared to the private sector. There is a concerning need for the government to make it crystal clear to police forces to secure accreditations for their force. In the field of Digital Forensics, there are mandatory requirements set out by the Forensic Science Regulator that stipulate digital forensics laboratories must be accredited to ISO 17025 by October 2017.

However, in order for the Forensic Science Regulator to implement this, the Government must bring forward the legislation before the end of the 2016-2017 current parliamentary session to give the Forensic Science Regulator statutory powers.

IntaForensics commitment to quality standards… 
Our company has invested heavily in developing our quality management system, operating procedures and laboratories. We have developed an integrated management system which has been accredited to the required standards, including:

  • ISO9001:2015 accredited in all of our four laboratories to the latest version of the standard
  • ISO 27001:2005 we have held this accreditation for a number of years and are in the process of upgrading our accreditation to the latest ISO 27001:2013 version covering all of our laboratories and systems
  • ISO 27015:2005 – we have accreditation in the required standard for digital forensics testing laboratories. Our scope of accreditation is focused on acquisition of data from computer devices. During the latter part of 2016 and 2017, we will be expanding the scope to cover all four laboratories and additional devices types and procedures.
  • Cyber Essentials Plus – we are both accredited and an Accreditation Body for the government Cyber Essentials scheme.

We work closely with our clients to both meet their needs, but also provide free technical and quality standards advice to them to help with compliance. The forensic science strategy is vital to the integrity and quality of evidence within our criminal justice system. IntaForensics are therefore committed to supporting our clients through the arduous process of securing accreditation to these standards.

Dr Tania Mathias also said, “Standard-setting and accreditation will help dispel concerns about cognitive bias in the police commissioning and undertaking forensic examinations. The Government must be clear that while some police forces may face particular challenges in securing accreditation, there must be no failure to meet the Regulator’s deadlines.”

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Case Review Manager - Criminal Cases Review Commission