New state-of-the-art forensics centre planned for Thames Valley

Construction of a new state-of-the-art forensics centre for Thames Valley Police is expected to start this summer.

Feb 10, 2023

The purpose-built centre in Bicester will become the main forensics hub for the force, containing laboratories, new digital technologies and dedicated training facilities.

It is part of the force’s three-year Forensic Improvement Programme, which will see “significant investment” to transform forensic services, with the aim of improving investigations and outcomes for victims.

Planning permission for the new forensic centre on force-owned land near Avonbury Business Park on Howes Lane, was granted by Cherwell District Council’s planning committee on Thursday (February 9) subject to the completion of a Section 106 agreement.

Construction is expected to be completed in winter 2024/25.

Willmott Dixon has been selected as the preferred contractors and Atkins as the design consultants.

Police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber said: “The programme is the result of a review of Thames Valley Police’s forensics services as a whole where we’ve identified the need to modernise facilities and increase capacity.

“In a world of rapidly advancing technology, ensuring the police stay on the cutting edge of forensics is crucial to keeping the public safe.

“Whether crimes such as burglaries, sexual offences or digital crimes, the police need to get ahead of the criminals.

“In addition to the increased number of community police officers already announced as part of this year’s budget the significant investment in forensics, including the new centre at Bicester, will improve the speed and quality of investigations by those frontline officers across Thames Valley to help deliver justice for victims and ultimately help to cut crime.”

Other key elements of the Forensic Improvement Programme include:

  • Investment in new frontline digital forensic tools and systems to give investigating officers better and faster access to digital evidence;
  • Adoption of new technologies to speed up the examination of evidence and management of cases, to reduce the impact on victims and witnesses;
  • Improving CSI Hubs, to enhance the force’s crime scene investigation capacity and capability;
  • Additional resources to support forensic accreditation, assuring the legitimacy of police evidence; and
  • Recruitment of additional staff across the Forensic Investigation Unit to provide a better service at the point of need.

Kay Hannam, head of Forensic Services at Thames Valley Police, said: “Forensic science can be the key to an investigation, in getting a case to court and delivering a timely outcome for the victim.

“This critical investment will support forensic services across the board from adopting new technologies, developing our people and ensuring legitimacy into the criminal justice system.

“Underpinning this programme of growth is our proposed new purpose built accommodation that will bring specialisms together under one roof. Here we will have the flexibility to expand our services to meet existing and future demand.

“This will be particularly important in areas such as digital forensics where we are seeing significant increases in demand and complexity year on year.

“It is an ambitious programme but it is an exciting time for Thames Valley’s forensic unit. Once complete it will provide our officers, partner organisations and most importantly our victims with market leading, cost effective and high quality services.”

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