New Code of Practice for investigators of fire and explosions

Niamh Nic Daeid

A new code of practice for the investigation of fires and explosions within the criminal justice system was launched today, May 16th 2017.

The new Code of Practice is supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Institution of Fire Engineers and the UK Association of Fire Investigators, the three leading organisations representing the profession across the UK. The Code has been developed by a multi-agency team led by the University of Dundee, one of the world’s foremost centres for research in forensic sciences.

The Code was presented at the Scottish Fire Symposium taking place at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters and Training Centre in Glasgow.

It provides professional guidance for practitioners, irrespective of which agency they represent, in the examination of incidents where a crime is suspected.

Welcoming the document, Lee Howell, the Independent Chairman of the Arson Prevention Forum, said, “This Code of Practice provides significant clarity as to what can reasonably be expected of those who investigate fires and is another significant step towards providing consistency and improved quality in this area.

“Arson remains one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute and improved investigation will undoubtedly assist to reduce the significant cost and consequence that Arson presents.”

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee, chaired the independent multi-agency team which wrote the new Code of Practice.

Professor Nic Daeid said, “The importance of this document cannot be underestimated. It has taken six years to prepare as we consulted with the community of practitioners from across the UK and beyond to make sure that we represented their views of where they wanted their profession to aspire to in terms of competence, expertise and practice.

“The Code will bring a standardised approach across the fire investigation sector in terms of good practice and understanding the obligations of being expert witnesses to the courts.”

Dr Nick Carey, the President of the UK Association of Fire Investigators (UK-AFI), said, “The UK-AFI is delighted to support the Code of Practice. Several of our members were involved with the preparation of the document and a large number of members provided valuable feedback during the consultation process. The document will provide valuable generic and UK specific guidance to fire investigators.”

Chris Blacksell, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) lead Officer for Fire Investigation, said "The NFCC is delighted to have been involved in developing this Code of Practice. Many Fire and Rescue Service Fire Investigators contributed to the drafting, and during the consultation process, and the outcome is a document which will provide excellent guidance to all those who investigate deliberate fires and explosions across the U.K." 

The new Code is designed to establish clear standards to assist with the gathering and examination of evidence in any investigation.

Expert witnesses in criminal cases are required to declare they have followed the Code of Practice of their disciplines, making the development of this document an important milestone within fire and explosion investigation across the UK.


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