The Forensic Science Regulator’s Statutory Code of Practice (the Code), published in October 2023, incorporates a change to the requirements for accreditation for forensic footwear activities, defining both footwear coding and screening as Forensic Science Activities (FSA) which require accreditation to BS EN ISO/IEC 17025. Prior to the Code being published, only evidential footwear comparison required accreditation.

The Forensic Science Regulator recognises that a number of forensic units only undertake footwear coding activities and therefore do not hold accreditation for footwear activities and acknowledges that attaining accreditation for this activity may be unachievable and this could lead to a cessation of this activity, posing a risk of loss of forensic intelligence to investigations. The Forensic Science Regulator has therefore agreed to an alternative to accreditation.

The NPCC Framework for Footwear Coding has therefore been produced by an Expert Network under the leadership of the National Fingerprint and Footwear Strategic Board (NFFSB) and the National Footwear Operations Group (NFOG). It provides a framework for all police staff and forensic units who undertake footwear coding activities to provide intelligence to support the investigation and detection of crimes and outlines those activities that must be undertaken by Police Forces and Forensic Service Providers in line with the Forensic Science Regulator Act 2021 and the Code.

For the purposes of this Framework, Footwear Coding shall include only the use of pattern code information to link scenes. Where a visual or physical comparison of marks from scenes with those from other scenes or with footwear is made, this shall class as Footwear: Screening or Footwear Mark Comparison; as set out in the Code, these activities must be accredited to BS EN ISO/IEC 17025.

It must be made clear that if a forensic unit is undertaking footwear coding activity, the unit must either be accredited to BS EN ISO/IEC 17025 or comply with the framework: there is no option to 'do nothing'. Furthermore, a forensic unit undertaking footwear screening or evidential comparison must be accredited to BS EN ISO/IEC 17025.

Download the NPCC Framework for Footwear Coding (v1 dated Feb 2023) or find it in the Library

This article was provided by Danyela Kellett, Chair of the National Footwear Operations Group.