Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')
As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.
Is there a designated length of time for which your force(s) and laboratories you instruct, both internal and external, retain physical material gathered during police investigations in respect of convicted crimes?
If there is a divergence of policy according to crime type, please provide clarification.
The phrase "physical material" above refers to all objects and items which are exhibited as part of both the "used material" at trial AND the "unused material", not subsequently used at trial.
Gathered physical material would be classed as exhibits and therefore retention and length of time is determined by the Criminal Procedures and Investigation Act 1996. Supporting guidance is provided in the Home Office document “Guidance Regarding the Storage, Retention and Destruction of Records and Materials That Have Been Seized for Forensic Examination”.
Where the material refers to a DNA sample taken from the accused under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (CPIA) 1984 retention is determined by the Protection of Freedoms Act (PoFA) 2012. The sample will only be retained if there is an evidential requirement to do so for proceedings. In such cases there is provision within PoFA to temporarily retain the sample under the CPIA Exception. It will then be destroyed six months following the conviction handed down by the court – unless an appeal against the sentence has been initiated.
All exhibits are returned from our Forensic Service Providers after testing and stored in Force under the legislation