Legal Aid

New approach to production of forensic evidence to be rolled out

PUBLISHED March 12, 2013

Rollout in April 2013 of initiative to cut costs, bureaucracy and delays across England and Wales.

Guidance is now available on a new approach by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to the production of forensic evidence at court.

Streamlined Forensic Reporting (SFR) is to be rolled out across the criminal justice system to reduce costs, bureaucracy and delays.

The scheme has been led by the London Criminal Justice Partnership in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police and London CPS.

It is publicly endorsed by the Senior Presiding Judge and is being championed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

How SFR works

The idea is to avoid at an early stage the full production of unnecessary forensic evidence.

This is achieved by the early preparation of a short report specifying key pieces of forensic evidence the CPS is relying on.

This will be sufficient for charging purposes and initial hearings. But if any issues crop up about the evidence these can then be looked at during the case management process.

If early agreement isn?t reached on forensic issues, there is still the benefit of identifying the contested areas as early as possible.

Further forensic evidence will only be produced if it proves relevant to a live issue in the case.

Benefits of SFR

Among the major benefits are:

  • lower risk of court cases being discontinued
  • improvement in the early guilty plea rate
  • fewer cases requiring additional forensic evidence
  • improved and effective active case management
  • time and cost savings across the criminal justice system.

Court time is saved and unnecessary forensic and prosecution work is avoided.

For the defence, it means clients can be advised early on the extent of the forensic evidence against them

This means the appropriate plea can be entered at the first hearing with greater opportunity to maximise the sentence discount.

Successful use of SFR in London

SFR was rolled out across the London Crown Court system in December 2011. It was first successfully tested at Woolwich Crown Court.

Further information

CPS website: SFR Guidance and Toolkit