FCN's Managing Director, John Armstrong, introduces our latest annual report with reflections on our 2023/24 year.

It gives me great pleasure to present the second FCN annual report, looking back on the successes of 2023/24 and ahead to the opportunities and challenges that 2024/25 will bring.

I’m pleased to say, this has been a much more settled year for the FCN in terms of structure, staffing, resources and delivery.

Our delivery plan—and how we developed it in close consultation with the forensic community, Home Office and NPCC—proved to be a positive and successful approach. It helped clearly set out what the FCN should focus on and how we can help meet the priority challenges and mitigate the risks in the forensic landscape.

We followed that approach again in developing the 2024/25 delivery plan, which also focusses on the key priorities of: quality, compliance and accreditation; marketplace stability and reform; digital forensics; workforce and performance.

As I said in last year’s report, I have a simple message: we’re here to help. I am committed to ensuring that what the FCN and our staff do is wholly focussed on that. We have a national view, so if we can do something once for everyone’s benefit then we will. Where that isn’t the best approach, we won’t interfere but be there if needed. If this is not what you are seeing or experiencing from our activities, then please let me know as we should be acting as a single point of contact for forensics in policing.

What we do is often in partnership with others from the community, be that police, academia, private providers, government or other organisations. Our role is often to bring people together, whether on creating a Forensic Marketplace Strategic Plan or our project to validate forensic activity at Sexual Assault Referral Centres – plus many other examples you’ll find in this report. Thank you to everyone who has partnered with us for your help, support and knowledge, as this benefits us all.

The work of the staff in the FCN has again been outstanding during 2023/24 and I am continually impressed by their professionalism, commitment and hard work. It is a pleasure for me and the wider leadership team to support them in what they do each day. I’m proud to say that the FCN delivers on what we say we’re going to do and when.

All of these factors are important to us, and as a team the FCN has reflected recently on how we can communicate ourselves better to the forensic community. You may see our new strapline – ‘Shaping forensics, together’ – which is all about the networked way the FCN operates. We think by coming together we can help shape a better future for forensics. Of course, it’s not really about a strapline, it’s about ensuring this is how we actually operate.

The rest of this report explains in detail some of the main activities and what the FCN has delivered in the year and how this has benefitted policing and the wider community. On our calculations, a cautious estimate for the benefits, savings or cost-avoidance achieved is circa £14m.

There are changes to our funding for 2024/25, as the FCN moves away from being funded by an annual Home Office grant and into a more sustainable position funded from the NPCC operating budget. This is good news as it allows us to plan further ahead beyond the current year, fill the key vacancies previously being held and look for more innovative ways to bolster our finances.

Our 2024/25 funding is less than in previous years and, as with all other organisations, we need to find efficiencies to continue to deliver at a high level. The FCN isn’t immune from such pressures, nor should it be. Details of our finances and resourcing are in section 3, but the headlines are £2.808m in funds for the year and a headcount of 35 people. FCN continues to be hosted by Dorset Police on policing’s behalf. We are really grateful for that and for all the corporate support provided to enable us to operate for you all.

I hope you find this report interesting, helpful and enjoyable to read.

John Armstrong, FCN Managing Director

Download the report.