PSNI committed to improving Scientific Support Service

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary have published a follow-up review of Scientific Support Services within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The review examined the progress made by the Police Service in implementing 25 recommendations designed to improve the PSNI’s performance in terms of how Scientific Support backed up crime investigation and detection across Northern Ireland since it was initially inspected in 2005.
“Inspectors are greatly encouraged by the progress that has been made towards the full implementation of the recommendations contained in the report,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland and Ken Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary.
“This review has shown PSNI is committed to improving its performance within this critically important area of business,” said Mr Chivers.
Eight of the recommendations contained in the original report have already been fully implemented. These include the appointment of a clear ‘champion’ for volume crime within the Service and the formation of a forensic strategy group.
A better resourced submissions unit has been established which operates to a robust Service Level Agreement, and has a priority system in place that recognises the growing importance of volume crime. It also facilitates the logging of submissions with Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI).
Inspectors however found that many frontline officers still lacked forensic awareness and the training delivered so far to these members of staff had not resulted in significant improvements.
A five-day scientific evidence model is now included as part of the Student Officer initial training programme at the PSNI College, yet despite this development, supervising officers stated that many new Student Officers required re-training in the basics on reaching their District Command Unit (DCU).
“Despite the fact progress on this recommendation has not been as great as we would have hoped for, Inspectors recognise that the PSNI is working to improve things. The Service is in the process of purchasing a training package from the Forensic Science Service in England and Wales which it plans to adapt for use within Northern Ireland to help address these shortcomings.
“Members of the inspection team also saw evidence that FSNI is participating in joint forensics training with the PSNI and these arrangements are to be formalised between the two agencies,” said Mr Chivers.
Inspectors noted that work had been undertaken in terms of maintaining quality control and continuity of evidence issues.
“All DCUs now have a nominated exhibits officer who exercises management control over exhibits as part of the Police Service’s efforts to tighten up procedures in this area.
“We recognise that exhibits officers generally have brought discipline and control to the management of exhibits, but stress that considerable additional work is needed before this recommendation can be signed off,” said Mr Chivers.
In conclusion, Mr Chivers and Mr Williams said they recognised the impact the restructuring of the PSNI from 29 DCUs to eight had had on the pace of progress. 
However, they were satisfied that critical areas were being addressed and that a commitment existed within the PSNI to implement all of the accepted recommendations contained in the original report.