BCS backs professional register for expert witnesses in forensics

The prospect of IT staff in certain fields having to be professionally registered has come another step nearer with proposals for...

The prospect of IT staff in certain fields having to be professionally registered has come another step nearer with proposals for a voluntary registration scheme for specialists who advise law courts on computer-related evidence.

The initiative, which also aims to give greater formal professional recognition to IT specialists in this field, has been hailed as a "new milestone in professional registration" by the BCS.

The society has responded to a consultation on the scheme, proposed by the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners.

The council, which is backed by the government, was set up to ensure that judges, lawyers and juries could rely on the integrity and diligence of experts giving forensic evidence.

It has already introduced schemes to assess and certify fingerprint specialists, forensic scientists and scene of crime analysts. Registration is voluntary but courts are increasingly giving extra weight to registered expert and professional witnesses.

Extending the scheme to computer-related evidence will benefit IT specialists in many ways, said BCS chief executive David Clarke, "We hope this will give greater professional recognition to our many members in this field, as well as employment opportunities. A large number of the computer professionals in forensics are BCS members."

He added, "The BCS naturally supports the aims and concept of this new register, which should create a greater focus on the important role computer forensics now plays in the British judiciary system."

The BCS said the scheme is needed because of "IT's growing importance in the British judiciary system, particularly as digital evidence and records now play a major role in forensic practice".

"The pilot registration scheme will distinguish the growing body of experts in computer forensics and computer evidence. These experts provide data capture expertise, data interpretation services and expert evidence on computer data and computer-related criminal practices."

The BCS has consulted members on the proposals and has submitted its views to the council, notably in areas of assessing competence and experience.

The BCS is concerned that people who are called on only intermittently to advise courts or lawyers might be excluded, because the proposal stated that those applying for registration must have done forensic work in the previous six months. The society has suggested extending that to 12 months.

These latest proposals for professional registration coincided with last week's news of the launch of the UK Council for Health Informatics Professionals, which has been formed to provide a registration scheme for people working in IT in healthcare. The scheme will define qualifications and standards for health IT staff, introduce a code of conduct and support for continuing professional development.


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