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FFLM Welcomes Forensic Science Regulator’s Warning About Lack of Standards in Police Custody


London, 9 January 2017: The Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine (FFLM) at the Royal College of Physicians of London applauds the concerns of the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR), Dr Gillian Tully, about lack of adequate standards in police custody healthcare, expressed in her Annual Report published today. (FSR press release HERE).

Dr Tully noted that “A specific risk has been identified In relation to commissioning of forensic medical examiners (FME) where not all procurement is specifying the appropriate level of FME training and qualification.” This concern has already been raised by the FFLM and FSR about all healthcare professionals including nurses and paramedics working within police custody and sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) with the Police and Crime Commissioners who are now responsible for commissioning care and forensic examination of people held in police custody. The FFLM, in partnership with the UK Association of Forensic Nurses and Paramedics, and the College of Paramedics, recommends minimum standards of training, experience and qualifications for all doctors, nurses and paramedics to ensure the safety of detainees and the integrity of forensic evidence taken from suspects and complainants.

Since the decision in December 2015 by the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May, to cancel the proposed transfer of police custody healthcare to the NHS, the FFLM has repeatedly been made aware of poor standards of care of people detained in police custody.  This group of patients have a high level of mental health, substance misuse and general medical problems which need careful assessment by healthcare professionals with appropriate training, experience and qualifications.  The current lack of commissioning specifications has allowed providers in search of profit from limited budgets to employ healthcare professionals with inadequate or inappropriate experience, training and qualifications, who should not be working in such complex settings.

Dr Jason Payne-James, President of the FFLM, states:

“This situation creates serious risk to vulnerable people detained in police custody and to vulnerable complainants of sexual assault.  Without appropriate medical care, there is an increased risk of deaths in custody, an issue that will be addressed in Dame Elish Angiolini’s forthcoming report on deaths and serious incidents in police custody.   Similarly, without appropriate forensic medical assessments, with forensic integrity throughout the assessment process, there is an increased risk of inadequate, wrong or misinterpreted evidence being provided to courts, resulting in miscarriages of justice.”

About the FFLM

The Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine (FFLM) of the Royal College of Physicians has the twin aims of raising standards in forensic & legal medicine and protecting vulnerable patients.  Forensic & legal medicine embraces professionals working in three main disciplines: forensic practitioners (including forensic physicians and sexual offence examiners; medico-legal advisers to medical defence organisations; and medically-qualified coroners. https://fflm.ac.uk/