The world of forensics rarely has a dull moment and 2023 has been no exception, with plenty of progress and a few challenges along the way. But what topics have had the most attention across the year? We tinkered around in the cobweb-strewn backroom of FCN’s website to find out what has been keeping the forensic community occupied.

1. Streamlined Forensic Reporting

Our most popular topic of the year continues to be SFR. We kick-started 2023 with an update on SFR, the membership of which has increased to include reps from all policing regions, private forensic providers, the CPS, HMCTS, the Judiciary, the Home Office, and the Legal Aid Agency. We introduced Evidential Drug Identification Testing (EDIT) and Lachrymators and Simple Noxious Substances to SFR and the pilot activity for fibres and SARCs.

If this sounds like niche stuff to you, don’t underestimate the reach of SFR – our SFR webpage is the only place people can find the latest guidance and templates, and had nearly 4,000 visits in the past 12 months.

2. Digital forensic apprenticeships

One of our most viewed topics of the year was on digital forensic apprenticeships, as plans progressed at pace to turn this UK-first Level 4 qualification into a reality. We broke the news in August that recruitment for DF apprenticeships had begun in the first police forces, with the first cohort of apprentices due to begin from January 2024.

Panel launch event for DF Forum

3. FCN Digital Forensic Forum

We saw another big spike in interest on digital forensics in May as the FCN team was busy facilitating our first Digital Forensic Forum attended more than 500 practitioners. Senior leaders including Forensic Science Regulator Gary Pugh, NPCC Forensic Lead Nick Dean, NPCC Forensic Quality Lead Chris Porter and FCN’s Managing Director John Armstrong launched the event with experts from FCN, UKAS, Met Police, West Yorkshire Police, South Wales Police, Police Digital Service and DSTL presenting on the day. If any of those presentations take your fancy, they’re still available to view on request, so just contact us for the link.

4. Understanding accreditation videos

With the launch of the Forensic Science Regulator’s Statutory Code in October 2023, accreditation has been the big topic of discussion in forensics. In June, FCN released a suite of videos and written guides to help forces get ready for the FSR’s requirements, including tailored videos for quality personnel and forensic practitioners, but also senior accountable individuals and non-forensic teams, all of whom have a part to play. Judging by the number of views, these were in high-demand and well-received.

Swab Out Crime (L-R); NPCC Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof Paul Taylor; FCN Scientific Officer, Paul Roberts; FCN Lead Scientist, Debbie Sharp.jpg

5. Swab Out Crime

We gave Swab Out Crime a soft launch early in 2023, but started promoting it in earnest from September with sampling days in police forces and splashes across our website and newsletters. This has been another of our big-ticket items for the year, with our initial announcement asking for 10,000 volunteers to help create a Y-chromosome reference database garnering a lot of interest. If you haven’t heard about Swab Out Crime at all yet, then we haven’t done our job properly! The best part is that we have some very exciting plans for 2024, so watch this space.

And those are just the highlights of the highlights… take a look at news page to see the eclectic mix of forensic disciplines and updates we cover, or register for one of our free events, or have a look at our ever-popular jobs page.