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In 2014 four forces Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset and Wiltshire brought together their scientific forensics services to form the South West Forensics Collaboration. Since then, using the opportunities created by bringing together these resources, the forces have overseen improvements in Crime Scene Investigation, Digital Forensics and Identification Services, delivered through a model which sees staff remain locally based.

In the latest move to further strengthen the effectiveness of this collaboration, Avon & Somerset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police will transfer the employment of its forensics staff to Dorset Police. Although staff will remain locally based, continuing to support policing in local communities across Avon & Somerset and Devon & Cornwall, the move to a single employer will provide consistent working practices and simplify the collaboration’s operating model.

Chief Officer for the South West Forensics collaboration, ACC Damian Kearney, said “This welcome move, which reinforces the collective investment in collaboration by the forces involved, will see over 300 forensic staff employed by Dorset Police on behalf of the region, reducing bureaucracy and streamlining working practices. The transfer of employment will take place by October 2019”.

Dorset’s Chief Constable, James Vaughan, is the national police lead on forensics, providing additional support and grounds for Dorset to host the regional forensic collaboration.

Although Wiltshire Police has decided against transferring the employment of its staff to Dorset Police, the force will remain a full member of the South West Forensics collaboration and working practices will be aligned as part of the new arrangements.

PCC Sue Mountstevens of Avon and Somerset Constabulary said: “The team is one of the most established collaborative services in the South West. It is more important than ever to work together to catch criminals and the 300+ forensics staff effectively deliver one of the most comprehensive forensics services in the country. This joined up approach ensures the South West Forensics Collaboration can deliver their complex and sophisticated skills to achieve, through the production of excellent scientific evidence, successful prosecutions of criminals.”

Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said: “We decided to bring this service together to serve the people of the south west in the most effective way.  In having a joined up approach we can maximise the impact of our expenditure rather than duplicate investment on things like very expensive scientific hi tech laboratory kit – ‘do it once’ is our motto.”

Mr Macpherson reaffirmed Wiltshire is keen to support South West Forensics and will work towards the harmonisation of staff terms and conditions.

PCC Martyn Underhill for Dorset Constabulary “Today we are pleased to announce we now are able to manage this large workforce through one constabulary – Dorset. The single host force concept is not new, but moving over 300 staff into Dorset, who have been working together but still having slightly different approaches means that we can positively tackle the improvements we want to make to the service.”

PCC Alison Hernandez said: “The move to one employer has been driven by management as the best option to deliver an efficient forensic service and staff welfare is at the heart of the decision. I believe that Dorset is best placed to deliver an excellent forensics as Chief Constable James Vaughan has been involved at a national level from the very beginning and I am sure he can give effective leadership to the team.”

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