“Towards the Vision for European Forensic Science 2020” (TVEFS-2020)
The recent Council conclusions on the vision for European Forensic Science 2020 including the creation of a European Forensic Science Area and the development of forensic science infrastructure in Europe (December 2011) has given broad consideration to the future of forensic science across Europe.
The EU Vision for European Forensic Science with the creation of a European Forensic Area by 2020 is about fostering cooperation between police and judicial authorities. It will entail a cooperation of the EU Member States and the EC to ensure the even-handed, consistent and efficient administration of justice and the security of citizens in the area of forensic science. This reflects the fact that forensic science remains a key element in the investigation and prosecution of crime. Furthermore, with increasing global crime (e.g. terrorism, organized crime, people trafficking) there is a strong need for forensic information to be shared across international borders and thereby, each country needs confidence in the forensic information produced by all other countries.
Many areas of international forensic cooperation are highlighted for development within the EU Vision. The diverse areas within the 10 EU vision statements will be tackled by many parallel work streams over the coming years. The TVEFS-2020 project will address a cross-section of those areas through a series of 6 specific activities. These activities have been selected by the ENFSI Board as reflecting areas that will have particular impact across the European forensic community. The project is an important stepping stone in the realisation of the 2020 Vision with contributions towards several of the vision statements within the EU Council Decision:
• “identification of optimal and shared ways to create, update and use forensic databases”;
• “conduct of proficiency tests/collaborative exercises in forensic science activities at international level”;
• “research and development projects to promote further development of the forensic science infrastructure”;
• “establishment of common best practice manuals and their application in daily work of forensic laboratories and institutes”;
• “use of advances in forensic science in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and other criminal activities”.
The TVEFS-2020 project started its formal work activity on 1st January 2015 and was originally supposed to run for 2 years, finishing on 31st December 2016. ENFSI as the monopoly body on forensic science in Europe has been allocated € 679.631,00 of financial grant.
The direct project participants are the members of the six teams delivering the activities. These 51 individuals are drawn from forensic laboratories, research institutes and universities across the EU and beyond. Furthermore, during the course of the work they will consult widely amongst the forensic experts in the relevant fields.
There is a further group of people who will benefit from the project results: European police forces undertaking criminal investigations and the judges and prosecutors working within the European courts. A starting point for estimating the size of this group might be 1000 persons per EU Member State, 28 Member States (28,000 people).
The project has 6 different work activities:
Project No. T1
Project Title: Creation and shared use of an international database of ignitable liquids and substances
Project description: A European database will be created to support fire investigation work across the EU. It will include potential interfering substances that might lead to false positives. The work will build upon an existing database in the USA to ensure that EU fire examiners can benefit from the sharing of international information.
Project Team Leader: Jeanet Hendrikse, Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), The Hague, The Netherlands
Project No. T2
Project Title: Development and implementation of new analytical methods and databases for the detection of additives in fuels and fire debris
Project description: This activity will look at the additives (corrosion inhibitors, detergents, antioxidants etc) added to fuels by manufacturers, that might be detected in fire debris during fire investigations. Such methods and databases will provide a new parameter to help establishing the source of fuels used to start fires.
Project Team Leader: Frank Schäfer , Forensic Science Institute (BKA), Wiesbaden, Germany
Project No. T3
Project Title: Proficiency tests for the fingerprint domain
Project description: This activity will undertake a broad look at the difficult area of fingerprint proficiency tests (PTs) and collaborative exercises (CEs). This will include the development of at least two PTs/CEs across the full forensic process – development, imaging and individualisation. It will also review the past experience of PTs/CEs since 2006, evaluate the real costs of conducting PTs/CEs and look to the organisation of international PTs/CEs in the future.
Project Team Leader: Aldo Mattei, Forensic science laboratories of Carabinieri Force (RaCIS), Rome, Italy
Project No. T4
Project Title: SmartRank: Likelihood ratio software for searching national DNA databases with complex DNA profiles.
Project description: This activity will address the problem of searching national DNA databases with partial and/or complex profiles. It will develop, test, validate and implement a robust software package to help searches providing more focused results.
Project Team Leader: Hinda Haned, Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), The Hague, The Netherlands
Project No. T5
Project Title: DNActivity: International cooperation in activity level interpretation of forensic DNA evidence.
Project description: This activity will tackle common questions about the interpretation of DNA results (probabilities of transfer, persistence and recovery). It will investigate guidelines for conducting relevant experiments and setting up databases such that results generated in one laboratory can be used elsewhere.
Project Team Leader: Ate Kloosterman, Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), The Hague, The Netherlands
Project No. T6
Project Title: The development of a statistical software package for likelihood ratio calculations.
Project description: This activity aims to further develop the use of likelihood ratios for evaluating the strength of forensic evidence. The software package will be a user-friendly, flexible tool for the benefit of caseworkers across many forensic disciplines to perform calculations without the need to consult a forensic statistician.
Project Team Leader: Annabel Bolck, Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), The Hague, The Netherlands
The TVEFS-2020 project will make significant contributions towards several of the specific areas highlighted in the EU vision statements:
• Shared forensic databases
• PTs/CTs at the international level
• Forensic research & development
• Common best practice manuals
• Fight against terrorism, organised crime and other criminal activities