FOI release

Transfer of material to the Forensic Science Service (FSS) forensic archive

23812 We have a received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the following:  1) What criteria were used to decide which…

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23812

We have a received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the following: 

1) What criteria were used to decide which material was retained and which material was destroyed?
2) How much material was destroyed?
3) What kinds of material were destroyed?

We released the following information on 5 September 2012.

 

1) Forensic Science Services (FSS) drew a distinction between casework materials and casework related records, as different criteria applied to their retention and destruction, as explained below: 

(i)           Casework materials

This term describes the following physical items and associated information, paper based or electronic, which grouped together constitute a case:

• Casefiles - the FSS’ records of the scientific examination of items submitted in connection with a criminal investigation, relevant test records of analysis undertaken, the scientific reporting and interpretation of results of forensic tests and copies of reports and statements issued;
• Retained dry and perishable materials and records associated with a case which were not returned to the customer; and 
• Exhibits not returned to the customer.  

The retention or destruction of casework materials in FSS is governed by internal guidance documents agreed between FSS and the Association of Chief Police Officers, which set out minimum retention periods for casework materials according to the category of case.  All retained casework materials were either transferred to FSS’ archive facilities from the decommissioned forensic laboratories or transferred to the instructing police force for custody.    No casefiles were destroyed by FSS as part of the archiving and closure project. 

(ii)          Casework related records

This term describes the variety of materials and records generated and/or used by FSS when operational.  Pursuant to the wind down of FSS’ forensic operations, the criteria used to determine whether to retain casework related records in FSS’ archive facilities to support the criminal justice system was based on a risk assessment methodology, as outlined below.   This enabled FSS to identify in a consistent manner, those casework related records which needed to be retained by Forensic Archive and those materials which were not required that could be disposed of or transferred to another body.  The approach involved the following steps:

• Scientific Leads across the range of different forensic disciplines and operational areas in the FSS with the appropriate scientific expertise and knowledge were responsible for identifying information assets. 
• The Scientific Leads then conducted risk assessments on the materials identified as being within their remit using the following factors to reach a preliminary determination as to whether the material ought to be retained in Forensic Archive or disposed of/transferred to another body: a) frequency of retrieval of the material; and b) the importance of this material / the likelihood of an adverse impact on the criminal justice system arising  as a result of non-retention of the material in Forensic Archive.   
• These decisions regarding retention or disposal reached by the Scientific Leads were then either ratified or challenged by an internal project board which included a representative of the Criminal Cases Review Commission using the same criteria, and the decisions were then subject to ratification by external criminal justice system stakeholders. 

Examples of the kind of casework related records that were retained include scientific standard operating procedures, validation records, relevant anti-contamination records, training records and continuity records. 

2) How much material was destroyed?

FSS did not quantify the volumes of material which were retained or destroyed as part of the closure project.    

3) What kinds of material were destroyed?

Where it was identified that certain items would not benefit from residing in Forensic Archive but had an inherent value to forensic science, they were offered to the Forensic Science Regulator.    

The kinds of material which were considered to be eligible for destruction and / or which were destroyed are as follows:  
• duplications of materials already retained in whole or in part, in Forensic Archive;
• items that were not considered to be required for casework support purposes as a result of the risk assessment and which were not considered to be of future value to the criminal justice system including picture libraries, collections used only for reference purposes, training packages and databases;
• out of date information that had limited value.