Lancashire Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner have signed a collaboration agreement with four other North West Police forces to provide a new regional forensic science service to help in the fight against crime.
This ground-breaking initiative, the first of its kind in England and Wales, brings together expertise from Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Merseyside and North Wales forces to increase the efficiency of the forensic science services for the communities they serve.
The regional programme sees collaborative efforts in drug analysis, footwear examination, firearm classification, toxicology and a forensic science courier service. All these services provide shared intelligence and evidence across the North West region to work towards supporting safer communities and getting results for victims of crime.
The first stage went live this summer with The Regional Drugs Facility which sees the forensic analysis of drugs for all five forces now carried out at our state-of-the-art forensic science facility at Lancashire Police HQ, in Preston. A launch event to mark the collaboration is taking place next week (details below.)
As part of the collaboration our existing drugs unit has been expanded with the installation of new bespoke laboratories to create the Regional Drugs Facility, also resulting in 15 new jobs in the county.
Our team of scientists now handle up to 300 cases per month which includes the analysis of more than 1,000 exhibits and provides an improved and more timely service for the five police forces that make up the collaboration.
The Regional Drugs Facility works in partnership with Lancashire Forensics Science Academy (LFSA) - a collaborative initiative between University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Lancashire Constabulary. Established in 2019 the LFSA brings together forensic science experts, practitioners and students to work alongside each other in the purpose-built research and laboratory facilities.
As well as drug analysis the site will also jointly facilitate the regional forensic examination of footwear, with Cheshire Constabulary, starting later this month.
With a focus on investment and tangible delivery, these services have created a total of 33 full time science-based jobs across the North West using leading edge technologies and adhering to the principles and regulations as laid out by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and the Forensic Science Regulator.
The delivery of the five year multi-million-pound collaboration agreement has been practitioner led with leadership, guidance and support provided by all Scientific Support Managers (SSMs), PCCS and corporate leads within the five collaborating forces.
Det Chief Supt Jo Edwards who has been the lead on the project for Lancashire Constabulary said:
“Lancashire already offered in-house services for drugs analysis through its state-of-the-art facility, expanding the facilities and to provide these services across the North West region was a natural progression to support not only the region, but the national forensic marketplace. The regional Drugs Facility brings increased expertise and resilience to the marketplace. Our partnership with regional forces provides enhanced forensic provision for the benefit of our communities.
“This collaboration will also enhance our academic alliance with UCLAN and the RDF and will provide a platform for students to work in a regional forensics facility, while also enhancing our opportunity to tackle future threats through academic research and innovation. By investing in-house, we have been able to increase jobs in this area as well as invest in this facility – this will create a sustainable, cost effective service with improved speed and quality and we believe the forensic service we will offer here in the North West will be second to none.”
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden added:
"It is fantastic to see this collaboration come together and it's encouraging to see it based here in Lancashire, building on the forensic science facilities already delivering results and helping secure convictions.
"Since becoming Commissioner one of the things that stood out about the officers and staff who works in policing here in the county is the drive to make things happen, deliver for the people of Lancashire and ultimately make us all safer.
"By working in partnership across the region and combining our resources where possible, we can ensure more investment can be made into the front line, so we can get tough on criminals and get them behind bars."