The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the operation of the criminal justice system. By contrast with some parts of the civil justice system, technology has not provided solutions to enable trials to go ahead in the magistrates’ court and the Crown Court at anything close to normal levels.
The number of outstanding cases in the criminal courts continues to climb, meaning that victims of crime are having to wait longer to find out whether or not they will receive justice, and defendants awaiting trial are spending longer on remand in custody or out on bail in the community.
Despite the chaos that’s disrupting the legal system, we have reacted by significantly increasing the breadth and depth of our forensic services and the number of scientists working with Forensic Access. We now boast over 350 expert forensic scientists, with notable growth in the following key areas:
Our network of digital forensic experts has expanded by twenty five per cent to accommodate increasing enquiries and the changing nature of crime. These experts cover many digital aspects, including:
- Mobile phone data extraction
- Cell site analysis
- Indecent images of children
- CCTV & Audio Enhancement
Our network of forensic psychiatrists has increased by twenty per cent, which is particularly important currently as we’re seeing many cases requiring psychiatric assessments ahead of imminent trials.
A forensic psychiatrist’s input can be extremely important in determining whether or not a defendant is fit to stand trial or able cooperate with the defence team. In addition to this, we can also assess the defendant’s mental state at the time the crime took place. Specifically, our forensic psychiatrists can analyse:
- The state of mind of defendants
- The sentencing of offenders
- The mental capacity of people making legal decisions
- Fitness to plead
- Fitness to stand trial
- Fitness to understand
We are also able to provide Neuropsychiatrists upon request.
We have recently welcomed two new experts to our biology team to assist with increasing enquiries for DNA interpretation and forensic biology review.
We are able to review the scientific findings obtained by the prosecution (including examination and re-examination of items following our accredited processes) and consider their accuracy and significance, as well as whether the evidence has been interpreted correctly in the context of the case. This can identify areas of weakness or challenge, or even suggest areas where further work is required in order to address issues within the case.
Forensic Drug Analysis
Our forensic drug analysis network has expanded by twenty per cent in response to the changing nature of crime during the pandemic.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has reported that around 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the last year of upheaval and uncertainty caused by Covid-19. This is an increase of twenty two per cent from 2010.
Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UNODC, said: “Lower perception of drug use risks has been linked to higher rates of drug use, and the findings of the UNOC’s 2021 World Drug Report highlight the need to close the gap between perception and reality to educate young people and safeguard public health.”
FRANK, the UK’s leading anti-drug advisory service, attributes the rise in young people misusing drugs to the relaxation of restrictions.
“People are more likely to use alcohol or drugs because they’ve not seen their friends for a while or because they’ve not had opportunity to during lockdown.”
In addition to high levels of drugs being available on the market, we are also seeing an increase in the different types of substances available. Forensic Access is able to provide a comprehensive service for drugs casework, including:
- Analysis and interpretation on the nature and purity of the drug
- Comment on the difference between ‘possession’ and ‘possession with intent to supply’
- Establishing the possibility/probability that different batches of drugs originated from the same clandestine laboratory
- Analysing whether or not the drugs present on bank notes (or other items) are indicative of the owner having been involved in the illicit drug trade
- Identifying new psychoactive substances
- Establishing the valuation of drugs seizures
Through our recently-acquired Alecto Forensics, we are now able to offer limnology services, specifically (and perhaps most impressively) related to diatoms.
Diatoms are microscopic algae located in fresh water, salt water, and moist terrestrial environments. They are diverse in form, shape, and structure and can be identified with precision – proving to be an important analytical tool within an investigation.
Diatom analysis is most often used in cases involving drowning, prolonged submersion in water, or when proof of contact with water is required.
A comparison of diatom data, distribution, and abundance produces a unique environment profile and provides information on habitat, seasonality, and geographical location. This information can be used to assist in identifying potential sites of drowning or, conversely, can be used to exclude sites where bodies have been recovered.
Specialist Forensic Services
We continue to source highly qualified experts in niche disciplines, and our recent new experts are qualified in:
- Sleep disorders
- Neuropsychiatry and Neuropsychology
- Auto brewery syndrome
To find out more about how Forensic Access can help build a robust defence strategy visit our Forensic Services pages or Tel: 01235 774870 to speak with our Casework Management Team about any current casework needs.