Fitness for purpose

Posted on October 2, 2009. Filed under: All, forensic | Tags: , , |

The last draft of the Forensic Science Regulator’s standard for digital evidence laboratories contained 6 principles – the well-known ACPO 4 plus 2 others. One states that the investigator is responsible for the evidence and their own actions and the other says that the provider “shall have the ability to demonstrate that all tools, techniques and methods are fit for purpose”.

Leaving aside the thorny issue of what exactly is meant by “having the ability to demonstrate” something and what the heck “fit for purpose” means in this context, there is a bigger issue.

Does this mean that every digital evidence lab., no matter how big or small, is going to have to carry out validation and verification of everything it uses ? If so – it’s going to be expensive and time-consuming. Given that most labs. in the UK (including Scotland, NI, Wales and England) use a few commonly available commercial tools, I think there’s a better way.

If we, as an industry, get together and fund a proper independent national validation service which can carry out the tests on our behalf then we can all benefit from a common set of standard tests being carried out just once. Not only that, but the service can itself be subjected to accreditation as a testing lab., giving an additional level of confidence in the results, for all.

Funding is clearly the issue, but if each user organisation subscribed to such a service for say £2500 per annum, the service would have a budget of around £250000 to work with – enough to employ some very good people to do the work. If some of that money is used to fund research students and/or projects then it could be the start of something very very big indeed.

The first employee is ready and waiting – I just need a few more industry figures to support the idea.

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    This is the weblog of Angus M. Marshall, forensic scientist, author of Digital Forensics : digital evidence in criminal investigations and MD at n-gate ltd.

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