In homicide and other serious crime investigations, the person appointed to the role of OC () Exhibits should be suitably qualified in terms of training and relevant experience. In a homicide investigation it is recommended that the OC Exhibits is a qualified Detective, preferably with previous experience in:
- mass exhibit handling
- forensic principles
- methods of exhibit recovery
- approved procedures for packaging and security of evidence
- managing contamination and cross-contamination issues
- use of standardised documentation as contained in the Serious Crime Template.
Who does the OC exhibits report to?
In smaller investigations the OC Exhibits (in conjunction with the OC Investigation) may also conduct an appreciation and facilitate a thorough interrogation of every exhibit, to establish the:
- evidential value of each exhibit
- investigative opportunities presented by each exhibit
- further enquiries that are needed.
The OC () Exhibits is responsible for establishing required standards for…
the recovery, handling, labelling, storage, submission to experts, presentation at Court and disposal of exhibits and ensuring these processes are completed in accordance with the requirements set by the OC Investigation and the Serious Crime Template. The OC Exhibits must communicate required standards to all investigation team members, usually at investigation conferences
The OC () Exhibits must, where appropriate, update the OC Investigation and 2IC with relevant information relating to:
- what exhibits have been found, and their movements
- the results of any exhibit examinations
- whether any further enquiries are required.
In the first instance the OC () Exhibits should only accept an exhibit if:
- the exhibit label contains the exhibit number and the name of the operation. Other details such as a description of the item, the details of the person finding it, the time, date and location are recorded on the Scene Exhibit Schedule
- the property is correctly packaged and sealed, and the exhibit label is visible and secured on the outside of the package
- any prompt action necessary to preserve the exhibit has been taken
What is a forensic strategy meeting?
Forensic Strategy meetings are held to determine which exhibit or other forensic examinations are required and the priority of those examinations
Developing a strategy for examination of exhibits allows the OC () Exhibits to…
prioritise tasks in line with the direction of the investigation. The strategy must be approved by the OC Investigation and continually reviewed throughout the investigation to keep abreast of any developments
Topics covered during a Forensic Strategy meeting may include:
What examinations ESR () and others could conduct on exhibits. The priority each examination should receive. Whether any further work is needed to assist a reconstruction. A plan for any work to be completed that is required to assist the reconstruction. An agreed reconstruction of the events relevant to the crime under investigation.
Those attending Forensic Strategy meetings include
- OC () Investigation
- OC Exhibits
- Crime Scene Co-ordinator/OC Scene
- forensic scientist (ESR)
- Fingerprint Officer
- Scene of Crime Officer SOCO
- OC Body
- other relevant experts.
Topics covered during a Forensic Strategy meeting may include
- What examinations ESR () and others could conduct on exhibits.
- The priority each examination should receive.
- Whether any further work is needed to assist a reconstruction.
- A plan for any work to be completed that is required to assist the reconstruction.
- An agreed reconstruction of the events relevant to the crime under investigation
The OC () Exhibits is responsible for managing the subsequent transfer of any exhibits identified during Forensic Strategy meetings as requiring forensic examination. The OC Exhibits should therefore be familiar with the requirements of taking an exhibit to an expert for examination, and in particular, maintaining the chain of custody. When forwarding an exhibit for examination, what steps should be followed?
1 - Ensure exhibit examination decisions are confirmed through the Forensic Strategy meeting process.
2 - Record in the Exhibits Register all decisions taken about the types of examinations to be conducted and the priority allocated to each examination.
3 - Ensure the OC () Investigation has authorised the proposed examination.
4 - Prepare the necessary paperwork
5 - Ensure any exhibits identified for forensic examination are prepared before being delivered
6 - Deliver exhibits for scientific examination promptly to avoid deterioration and loss of evidence.
7 - Inform the expert undertaking a scientific examination if it is no longer required.
How should exhibits be prepared for sending to forensic examination?
- all items are separately wrapped
- all parcels are sealed
- all items or their packages are labelled and numbered
- a list of all items is attached to the Police Form 143
- the Police Form 143 is consistent with the labels on the items
- items are in an appropriate condition
What information must be on the POL143 that accompanies exhibits for forensic examination?
- brief circumstances of the case
- purpose(s) of the examination
- location where each item originates from
- whether any exhibits are damp or require special attention
- authorisation by the appropriate supervisor.
What should the OC Exhibits do with the results of the exhibits examinations?
Update the exhibit register with the results and bring it to the attention of the OC investigation.
All exhibits photographed in a Police photographic studio must have what displayed in the photograph
the exhibit number
What must be done where the defence council wish to inspect exhibits?
The OC () Exhibits must facilitate the inspection of exhibits by defence counsel, in circumstances where Police have an obligation to allow such inspection, under section 19(1) of the Criminal Disclosure Act 2008.
When preparing for trial who decides which exhibits are relevant?
OCI in conjunction with OC Exhibits.
The OC () Exhibits is responsible for preparing the exhibits for production at Court. This must be conducted in a manner which
- clearly demonstrates the evidential value of the exhibits,
- avoids any risk of physical injury, disease, accident, contamination or damage
Prosecutions of serious crimes normally involve significant numbers of exhibits. Therefore what should be prepared to assist with tracking the exhibits?
a schedule of Court exhibits should be prepared which will itself become an exhibit. This schedule is a valuable asset to the OC Exhibits as well as to all other parties involved in the hearing as it enables them to follow the history of individual exhibits
What is important to note when disposing of exhibits post trial?
In high-profile homicide or serious crime trials, care should be taken with the disposal of exhibits which may possibly be subject to further judicial review. The OC () Exhibits must liaise with the OC Investigation and the Crown prior to any decision being made as to the disposal of exhibits in such trials. It is better to err on the side of caution (and retain the exhibits) than dispose of them immediately.
What does chain of custody include?
every individual who has had custody of an exhibit, from the time it was first discovered until the time it is produced in Court
While an exhibit was under their control, each person with custody of the exhibit must be able to demonstrate:
- when they received custody of the exhibit and from whom
- where and how the exhibit was securely stored
- when, why and how the exhibit was moved from one place to another
- how the exhibit has been treated, safeguarded and preserved
- when and why they transferred custody of an exhibit to another person, and to whom.
The exhibit numbering system should be simple, efficient and provide the following key attributes:
- be consistent
- allow delegation of exhibit numbers to staff who will utilise them
- cope with multiple scenes
- be compatible with technology, allowing searching to be conducted using exhibit numbers
- encompass all exhibits
What are the exhibit number ranges?
Admin - 10000 Victim - 15000 Witnesses - 20000 Area Canvass - 25000 Scenes - 30000 Suspects 70000
Example of splitting and numbering exhibits
Exhibit 10708 is a box. It contains a plastic bag of cannabis. The plastic bag is given the sequential number after 10708, i.e. 10709, and the cannabis taken from the bag is given a further number following 10709, i.e. 10710. The location where the plastic bag was found would be recorded as “inside exhibit 10708” (the box) and the drugs would be recorded as being found “inside exhibit 10709” (the plastic bag)
What should be considered before unsealing an exhibit?
Before any exhibit is unsealed careful consideration must be given to avoiding forensic contamination and jeopardising the integrity of the exhibit. The decision to unseal an exhibit should be taken and recorded through the Forensic Strategy meeting process and be carefully managed.
What is a scene exhibit officer responsible for?
a Scene Exhibit Officer is responsible for the custody, security and recovery of exhibits at that particular crime scene. This includes the numbering, labelling, packaging, collecting, and handling of the exhibits.
The Property Record Sheet (Police Form 268) that is traditionally used to record seizure and movement of exhibits do not lend themselves to recording complex exhibit movements or five digit exhibit numbers. Therefore for serious crime investigations, the following documents will be used:
- Scene exhibit schedule
- Exhibit Register
- Chain of Custody form
- Formal Written Statement
Where local practice requires that a Police Form 268 must be completed before property can be accepted into the local property/exhibits store, and exhibits are to be held in this store, then a single Police Form 268 should be completed in respect of all of the exhibits. This is achieved by:
- listing the range of exhibit numbers submitted
- Listing the name of the operation
- attaching a copy of relevant Scene Exhibit Schedule(s).
What is a scene exhibit schedule
A paper record of the exhibits at a particular scene.
What is a exhibit register
An electronic master record of all exhibits obtained during an investigation.
What is a chain of custody form
A paper record of any movement(s) of an exhibit, after the time the OC Exhibits has taken custody of it.
What is a formal written statement
Statement by the OC () Exhibits, detailing their actions taken to manage the exhibits during the investigation.
The Scene Exhibit Schedule should record the following information for each exhibit:
- exhibit number
- detailed description of the exhibit
- name of the operation
- location of the scene
- exact location where the exhibit was found, at the scene
- name of the finder
- date and time it was seized
- relevant signatures.
What are the oc exhibits duties during the investigation?
1 Conduct all duties as OC Exhibits, in accordance with the ‘purpose’ of an OC Exhibits, as specified in this chapter.
2 Access the Exhibit Management desk file within the Serious Crime Template and print off blank Scene Exhibits Schedules and Exhibit Register, or download the forms onto a laptop or tablet.
3 Establish the Standard Operating Procedures set by the OC Investigation for management of exhibits during the investigation.
4 Establish a system of 5 digit exhibit number ranges to cater for all scenes and cover all exhibits,
5 Brief each officer in charge of an investigation phase on scene and provide them:
Exhibit number ranges to be used at each scene Standard Operating Procedures for the investigation Blank Scene Exhibits Schedules.
6 Establish a secure area for exhibit storage and if possible, an appropriate exhibit processing area.
7 Take charge of any exhibits from various phases of the investigation.
8 Obtain the original Scene Exhibit Schedule(s) from officers in charge of phases of the investigation so the exhibits received can be audited.
9 Where exhibits will be held in the property/exhibits store, and local procedures require a property record sheet (Police 268), prepare a single Form 268 with a copy of relevant Scene Exhibit Schedule(s) attached to it.
10 Commence an Exhibit Register for the investigation. Record all exhibits in the Exhibit Register.
11 Update the OC () Investigation with:
what exhibits have been found, and their movements any examination results whether any further enquiries are required.
12 Attend all investigation team conferences and:
make the Exhibits Register available and update others regarding exhibits which have been found and the results of expert examinations conducted.
13 Arrange Forensic Strategy meetings in consultation with the OC Investigation. Ensure an appreciation is conducted to ensure every exhibit is interrogated to establish its evidential value and investigative relevance, and to identify any further enquiry required.
14 Complete ‘Examination Strategy document(s)’ in conjunction with the OC () Investigation.
15 Update the Exhibits Register with all Forensic Strategy decisions about exhibit examinations and priorities of those examinations.
16 In consultation with OC () Investigation, prepare documents necessary to accompany exhibits to the ESR () or other experts for examination e.g. Police Form 143.
17 Wherever possible, transport exhibits for examination personally. Where impractical, arrange for the person who found the exhibit to transport it.
18 Prepare a separate Chain of Custody form for each exhibit transferred out of the custody of the OC () Exhibits.
19 Where an exhibit examination is no longer required, promptly inform the expert who is conducting the examination.
What are the OC exhibits duties before prosecution?
20 Prepare a Court Schedule of Exhibits. This schedule will demonstrate the chain of custody for each exhibit.
21 Prepare the exhibits for Court
22 Prepare a Formal Written Statement detailing duties conducted as Exhibits Officer.
What are the OC exhibits duties after the prosecution?
- Collect exhibits from Court after conclusion of the proceedings.
- After expiry of the appeal period, dispose of the exhibits as directed by the OC () Investigation.
- Submit a report of exhibit disposal to the 2IC
- Exhibits seized pursuant to a Production Order or Search Warrant must be disposed of in accordance with sections 150 and 151 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012.