There are 47 Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) in the UK positioned regionally to provide specialist medical and forensic services to the victims of rape and sexual assault. The centres are managed and operated through multiagency agreements bringing together medical and forensic expertise to provide the necessary care for the victim and support the recovery of forensic evidence. A principal factor in preserving the evidence integrity and mitigating the risk of miscarriages of justice is reducing the risk from background DNA contamination to the samples and evidence recovered. This paper outlines a study reviewing the implementation of contamination reduction procedures at one SARC, providing a longitudinal examination of the outcomes of environmental monitoring procedures over a 12-month period. The outcomes show a myriad of factors affecting the process that need continual review and modification of the operating procedures to counteract these risks, as they arise. The Forensic Regulator's “Code of Practice for Forensic Medical Examinations – FSR-C-116”, published in May 2020, provides an essential and useful mandate of activities, but this study shows further consideration is required in regard to SARC cleaning procedures and measuring the extent of background DNA contamination. Considerable investment, and further research is needed to implement new and more effective approaches within ‘real-world’ and local constraints.
- contamination minimisation
- sexual assault referral centre
- forensic science
- sexual assault
- ISO accreditation