What are Wiltshire Police's procedures for storing and transporting DNA?

Esther Turner made this Freedom of Information request to Wiltshire Constabulary

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Dear Wiltshire Constabulary,

Could you please let me know where I may find your procedures (storage, handling, timescales, transportation methods etc) both for DNA in your possession (before it goes to archive) and for DNA which Wiltshire Police has requested from archive which is to be transported to a forensics laboratory.

Yours faithfully,

Esther Turner

Force Disclosure Unit,

Dear Esther,

Our Ref: FOI 2021/973

Thank you for your request for information dated 22nd November 2021 concerning DNA procedures.  Your request will be considered under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your request will now be considered and you will receive a response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act, subject to the information not being exempt or containing a reference to a third party.  In some circumstances Wiltshire Police may be unable to achieve this deadline.  If this is likely you will be informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

Although every effort will be made to ensure a response is provided within statutory deadlines, due to current circumstances delays may be unavoidable.  We apologise for any inconvenience and will endeavour to process your request as quickly as is practicable.

There may be a fee payable for the retrieval, collation and provision of the information you request.  If this is the case you will be informed and the 20 working day timescale will be suspended until we receive payment from you.  If you chose not to make a payment then your request will remain unanswered.

Some requests may also require either full or partial transference to another public authority in order to answer your query in the fullest possible way.  Again, you will be informed if this is the case.

Please note that we now publish all our Freedom of Information responses on our website under a disclosure log. This can be assessed here: https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/rqo/requ... you are looking for a specific topic that might have already been answered.

Kind regards,
Force Disclosure Unit
Wiltshire Police Headquarters
London Road
Devizes
SN10 2DN

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Dear Force Disclosure Unit,

Today, 17th December 2021, marks the 20th working day since my request.

As this is a simple request, not requiring any research, but simply calling for a 'link' (if you like) to the location of your procedures for the handling and transportation of DNA, then the slowness of your response is puzzling.

Could you explain?

Yours sincerely,

Esther Turner

Force Disclosure Unit,

Good afternoon Esther,

Thank you for your email. Due to an administrative error your enquiry was not tasked out. We have now tasked your request out today and will commence respond as soon as possible. We are very sorry to have caused you any inconvenience.

Kind Regards
Emma Johnson
Force Disclosure Unit (FDU)
IM & A Workflow Coordinator
All members of the Force Disclosure Unit are working from home for the foreseeable future. Where possible, please send all correspondence via email to enable timely responses.
Force Disclosure Unit
Wiltshire Police
www.wiltshire.police.uk
[email address]

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Dear Force Disclosure Unit,

Thanks for the response.

I had believed that the 20-day deadline was yesterday, 17th December 2021, but I see that Whatdotheyknow has calculated it as 21st December 2021 so you have the opportunity to redeem yourselves.

As this request does not involve any research but is simply a question of indicating where I may find the procedures requested, you should be able easily to provide the information by the deadline.

Yours sincerely,

Esther Turner

Merritt, Kerry,

Good afternoon Esther,

I am the Decision Maker from Wiltshire Police dealing with your Freedom of Information Request.

I have spoken with several people including our Force Policy Officer and our POC for Southwest Forensics and unfortunately we are struggling to find an exact procedure in relation to your request. I have been asked to speak with you in order for you to clarify the type of DNA you are referring to and can you also please clarify what is meant by the term archive?

I look forward to hearing from you. Please note that the time frame on your request will be paused until we have received clarification from yourself.

Kind regards,

Kerry Merritt
Force Disclosure Decision Maker
Wiltshire Police HQ, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 2DN
Tel: 01722 547226
Please note I am currently working from home

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Dear Merritt, Kerry,

Thanks for the response.

Now I'm struggling to understand what you mean by "type of DNA". What 'types' are there?

I am talking of:
a. DNA taken from suspects or someone charged with a crime, usually by means of a swab of saliva
b. DNA lifted from clothing (for example) at a crime scene

The archive I am talking of is the Forensic Science Service archive which was originally located at Chepstow but is now somewhere in Birmingham I believe and has changed from the FSS to FAL (Forensic Archive Ltd).

Then there are the forensic laboratories where DNA samples are transported to (from the archive) for analysis by forensic scientists.

So, DNA is taken (and stored, how?) and, in some form (what form?) moved/transported to the forensic archive (how?). Then if forensic analysis is required, the DNA must be transported (by request from the police?) to a laboratory where analysis is undertaken by expert witnesses for example.

There may be national guidelines for these processes but I believe that the DNA is 'owned' (for want of a better word) by the police force involved. Wiltshire Police must therefore have procedures in order to control the steps involved.

Yours sincerely,

Esther Turner

Merritt, Kerry,

Good morning Esther,

Thank you for your clarification. I have passed on your below comments to our Southwest Forensics POC who is currently completing this request.

Please note it might interest you to know that I have spoken with our Force Policy Officer and he has provided me with two documents that deal with taking DNA and retention of DNA in the Forces possession but he could not find one on the storage or transportation. That's why I am in consultation with South West Forensics, as we are part of a Tri-Force to see if they have something which I can provide you which covers all points of your request.

So please let me assure you, we would and do have procedures in place, I am just making sure your request is answered in the fullest way it can be.

Kind regards,

Kerry Merritt
Force Disclosure Decision Maker
Wiltshire Police HQ, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 2DN
Tel: 01722 547226
Please note I am currently working from home

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Merritt, Kerry,

4 Attachments

Good afternoon,

 

Thank you for your Freedom of Information Request.

 

I apologise for the delay in answering your request. Please find attached
our response letter and the 2 procedures that deal with taking DNA and
retention of DNA in the Forces possession. After speaking with many people
I have been advised to inform you that Wiltshire Police do not use the
Archive to store DNA so the questions can’t be answered in relation to
this. However, If you wish to know about current practices for current
PACE and crime scene DNA then I have been advised to inform you to submit
a new detailed request to the main Force Disclosure Unit inbox.

 

Kind regards,

 

Kerry Merritt

Force Disclosure Decision Maker

Wiltshire Police HQ, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 2DN

Tel: 01722 547226

Please note I am currently working from home

 

Dear Merritt, Kerry,

Apologies for the delay in responding but, based on your response to my enquiry, I had/have some queries, one of which required a further FOI request to Avon & Somerset Police. I have not yet received a response to this request.

In document Forensic Custody Sampling & Sampling following Invite Interviews which you have provided, we find the following: "Local procedures to then be followed, informing the Divisional Driver that the sample is in the freezer so that arrangements can be made for them to collect them and transport them to The Custody Sampling Team A&S Portishead via Devizes HQ". I could, however, find no such department on the A & S Police website so I sent an FOI request querying this and asking what was the function of this department and what were their responsibilities.

Also, you say that Wiltshire Police does not use 'the Archive' but I have evidence that you do use 'the Archive' (this is the forensic archive which after changes of administration (from public to private) and of location (a number of times); it now resides at Gravelly Park, Birmingham) or certainly have used it over many years. As 'the Archive' retains (DNA) evidence from past and current cases, it is baffling that you say that Wiltshire Police does not use it. On the Archive's website here: https://www.forensicarchive.com/the-arch... we find 'The Forensic Archive was established in 2012 (this is the date when it replaced the Forensic Science Service) to look after more than four million items relating to forensic examinations and investigations carried out by the Forensic Science Service on behalf of the Criminal Justice System'. So how does Wiltshire Police archive its samples and retrieve samples from past cases?

Finally, you say "If you wish to know about current practices for current PACE and crime scene DNA then I have been advised to inform you to submit a new detailed request to the main Force Disclosure Unit inbox" but this is the subject of THIS FOI request so why are you requesting that I submit another request? Also, you are a member of the Force Disclosure Unit (FDU) so, again, I fail to understand why you are asking me to write to the FDU.

Yours sincerely,

Esther Turner

Merritt, Kerry,

Good morning Esther,

 

Unfortunately, I just provide the information in which I have been given
by contacting the relevant business area and I am unable to comment any
further on any of your point below.

 

If you would like to know the answers to your question " So how does
Wiltshire Police archive its samples and retrieve samples from past
cases?" then this would need to be submitted as a new FOI request as this
question was not in your original request and therefore is deemed a new
request (even if this relates to the same subject). This can be directed
to our main FDU INBOX.

 

Furthermore, in relation to your point "If you wish to know about current
practices for current PACE and crime scene DNA then I have been advised to
inform you to submit a new detailed request to the main Force Disclosure
Unit inbox" Although this relates to your FOI subject, there was no
question relating to this within your original request, hence why the
Business area has advised if you wanted to know further information to
submit a new request.

 

Finally, the reason you are advised to submit a new request to our FDU
INBOX is because myself and other Decision Makers do not triage or
allocate Freedom of Information Requests or many other tasks that we deal
with in this department. This is dealt with by our administrator as we
have to keep a record of all requests for our stats and each request is
allocated out as per a rota, therefore this is dealt with by our
administrator as the Decision Makers are far too busy with other tasks to
triage booking tasks in.

 

If you are unhappy with how your request has been handled, you are more
than welcome to request an internal review where our Principle Decision
Maker will review your request again and view what has been disclosed.
Please let me know if this is something you require.

 

Kind regards,

 

Kerry Merritt

Force Disclosure Decision Maker

Wiltshire Police HQ, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 2DN

Please note I am currently working from home

 

 

 

 

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