Inspection of Forensic Services in Northern Ireland

Publication: 29/02/24
Cover of the Forensic Services in Northern Ireland Inspection
"It's with Forensics" An Inspection of Forensic Services in Northern Ireland

Forensic services play a vital role in the criminal justice system, supporting decisions to prosecute and the administration of justice in the criminal Courts. This inspection calls for strengthened collaborative working between Forensic Science Northern Ireland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Department of Justice to achieve their shared strategic vision of delivering world-class forensic services in Northern Ireland.



What are forensic services?

Forensic services are included throughout criminal cases from evidence search recovery at crime scenes, analysis and reporting of results to customers and the Courts.  Forensic services have increasingly helped to determine whether a crime has been committed, establishing the causes of crime and deaths, the identification and elimination of suspects and linking crimes and the sequences of events.

Why are forensic services important?

Quality forensic services are the cornerstone of an effective criminal justice system; supporting decisions to prosecute and the administration of justice in the criminal Courts; it can be the difference between justice being served or not.

Unpacking “urban-myths”

The inspection report aims to clarify misconceptions surrounding forensic services in Northern Ireland. It explains how some delays and duplication have been reduced and how services can be better delivered to fulfil the intention and ambitions of the Forensic Service Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Key Findings of the Inspection Report


Improvement of Service Delivery 

To achieve the strategic vision of delivering world-class forensic services, there is a need for more fully integrated and unified service delivery projects from crime scene to court. This entails demonstrating high quality, timely, and value for money benefits to the criminal justice system.

Reassessing the funding model

The current funding model may not be optimal for efficient governance, accounting, and delivery. The report calls for the initiation of a new funding model to facilitate the delivery of a more unified service within a year of its publication.

Maximising collaborative efforts

While joint governance arrangements are in place, there is a need for a stronger focus on delivering the priorities outlined in the Northern Ireland Forensic Services Strategy 2021-26.
Close co-operation with forensic services in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland exist, with scope for further mutually beneficial collaboration.

People challenges

Budget pressures have contributed to high levels of unfilled vacancies and the loss of highly trained staff. Concerns regarding career pathways and low pay awards have also been highlighted. Despite constraints, staff demonstrate a high level of commitment to their work and are actively engaged in joint and collaborative efforts to enhance service delivery.

Recommendations for improvement

This report makes five strategic and four operational recommendations to support future collaboration and successful strategy delivery.


Northern Ireland's criminal justice system needs forensic services that keep pace with scientific developments that match increasingly creative criminal activities, particularly in digital and drug crime.
In the forensics world every contact leaves a trace and we hope these report recommendations lead to more than a trace of improvement and better services.

Read the Press Release