Forensic Capability Network must be ‘led and shaped’ by policing says host force Dorset’s ACC

Supporting the 43 forces to meet the increasingly complex demands of policing must be at the core of the

newly set up Forensic Capability Network (FCN) its lead ACC said this week.

ACC Mark Callaghan from FCN’s host force Dorset Police is working to ensure the FCN is led and shaped

by policing rather than delivered to them. He has also taken on the role of Deputy Director of FCN’s

development arm, the Transforming Forensics programme.

Speaking to the Investigator, he explained that his background as an operational officer in both uniform

and CID makes him well placed to provide ‘the policing conscience’ of the FCN which he believes will be

important to ensure its success.

Starting out as a constable at Greater Manchester Police, ACC Callaghan has risen through the ranks in a

variety of roles including head of crime and roles in covert policing and intelligence. He was also the Gold

Commander for Brexit and Covid-19 in Dorset.

“A major focus of my role with the FCN is to make sure we are engaging with all 43 forces, ensuring there

is coordination and they have a voice in the work,” he said.

“The whole purpose of the FCN is that the network isn’t defined by the central core team, it’s defined by

police forces and by operational officers. The core team is simply the glue that brings it all together.”

National approach

The Home Office-funded Forensic Capability Network was officially launched eight months ago, under the

auspices of the NPCC Transforming Forensics programme, with the remit of providing a much-needed

national approach to forensics in policing.

ACC Callaghan acknowledges it was launched at a time when the police service was still adjusting to the

after-effects of austerity and reduced resources and that the FCN has an important role to play in

‘upskilling resources’ particularly in relation to cyber and digital.

“Ultimately, if we can make our practices more efficient and effective and if we can have the right resources to solve the problems then I am confident we will be able to meet the challenges ahead.

“It’s all about delivering capabilities and capacity to meet the demands of digital and forensic science moving forward so that we deliver an outstanding public service.”

Complex landscape

Reflecting on his own police journey and looking back at how much policing has changed over the past twenty years, ACC Callaghan admitted that the police service is now operating in an increasingly complex landscape and that the FCN must not only recognise this, but support officers through sometimes choppy waters.

“Policing generally is seeing a significant demand in the complexity of investigations particularly around the vital issue of vulnerability and safeguarding,” he said.

“Add to this the increasing digital challenge and the need for proportionality in terms of balancing the evidential requirements with the need to protect the privacy of individuals and we are operating in a very complex environment.”

ACC Callaghan emphasises that central to all these competing challenges and demands is ensuring justice for victims.

One of the most important ways of achieving this justice is to ensure working practices and methods are sound and can withstand external scrutiny particularly in digital forensics and wider forensics.

“The introduction of the ISO standards has been a really positive move to help make sure our work has scrutiny and integrity and to also ensure that the wider criminal justice system has confidence in our work.”


ACC Callaghan praised forces for the way they have stepped up to meet the challenge of ensuring they meet the new ISO standards and accepted that the challenge hasn’t been an easy one.

He also spoke of the importance of giving investigators the ‘right tools to do their job’ and that one of the aims of the FCN was to look at how to develop tools that automate the digital evidence process on the frontline to ensure their time is freed up to deliver a better service for victims.

“The primary focus is on ensuring that digital forensics helps support the delivery of outstanding public service.”

He praised the efforts of all officers who are currently working in an extremely challenging environment because of the pandemic and said that the main lesson to be learned was the important of ‘embracing agile delivery.’


“I’m extremely impressed and proud of the way the police service has reacted to the unprecedented situation brought about by the pandemic. It’s taught us that there is massive strength in the wider public service working together. It’s about that common sense of purpose and that ability to deliver an efficient and effective service that meets growing public demand and the needs of victims.”

For more information about the Forensic Capability Network go to:

ACC Mark Callaghan

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