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Procedure Properties

Title: Preservation of a Crime Scene and Evidence
Category: Custodial Operations Standard Operating Procedure
Version: 01
Implement Date: 30 August 2011
Application: Custodial Operations
Availability: Public

Authority

Appendices and Forms

Associated Custodial Operations Standard Operating Procedures

QCSA Training Aides

  • Preservation of crime scenes and evidence

Review Date: November 2013

Custodial Operations Standard Operating Procedure - Preservation of a Crime Scene and Evidence


Performance Standards
Authority
1.Process
2.Definitions
3.Duties of First Officer Attending a Crime Scene
3.1Medical emergency
3.2Management of witnesses and suspects at the crime scene
3.3Hand over to investigating officer
3.4Documentation and records
3.5Preservation of a crime scene
4.Disturbing a Crime Scene
5.Methods for Securing and Maintaining a Crime Scene
6.Prisoner Incident Referred to Queensland Police Service (QPS)
7.Preservation of Evidence
8.Continuity of Possession
9.Handling of Specific Evidence
9.1Drugs
9.2Documents
9.3Syringes
9.4Ropes, twine, cordage
9.5Firearms
9.6Flammable Liquids
9.7Liquor
9.8Biological evidence (eg. blood stained clothing, seminal fluids, etc)
10.Fingerprints and Other Types of Evidence

Performance Standards

A process must be developed for the effective preservation of a crime scene and evidence when an alleged offence has been committed or an incident has occurred. This must include that the security and integrity of a crime scene and associated information are maintained to prevent evidence from being contaminated, destroyed, lost or altered. The process must be in accordance with-

Safety and Security - Our Principles - Incident response

3 Containment

We will provide an enhanced incident response capability.

Refer - Safety and Security - Our Principles (in-confidence)

Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia Standard 1.49,1.50, 1.52,1.53,1.54

Refer - Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia Revised 2004

Authority

  • Corrective Services Act 2006, s.20, s 138, s 143, s. 265, ,
  • Criminal Code Act 1899 -(QLD)
  • Drugs Misuse Act 1986
  • Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000

1. Process

.It is important to maintain the security and integrity of a crime scene and preservation of evidence to ensure the success of any breach action taken under section 118 of the Corrective Services Act 2006 (CSA) or the success of any prosecution for an offence under the CSA, Queensland Criminal code, Drugs Misuse Act 1986 or any other relevant legislation.

Unless it is absolutely necessary, touch nothing at a crime scene.

A professional and consistent response to incidents is crucial to meeting duty of care obligations and minimising harm arising from incidents. A knowledge and understanding of the responsibilities of the first officer responding to incidents is fundamental for all departmental staff.

Accountability and responsibility for the preservation of a crime scene must fall upon the duty correctional supervisor or nominated officer charged with the duty of preserving the scene.

2. Definitions

Crime scene means the area associated with a suspected crime from/in which physical evidence may be obtained. This can include structures, rooms, open areas, vehicles and persons.

The Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 defines a crime as a primary crime scene or a secondary crime scene.

Primary crime scene is where a crime actually occurred.

Secondary crime scene is in some way related to the crime but is not where the actual crime took place.

Evidence means articles, items or things that can be used to determine the facts associated with a particular matter or to prove or disprove a fact in a court of law.

Physical evidence need not be visible to the naked eye and can include but is not limited to such evidence as clothing, DNA, documents, weapons, fingerprints, footprints, footwear impression which may need to be enhanced in order to be recorded, compared and analysed or any other item located at a crime scene. Importantly any item at a crime scene can potentially be evidence.

Preservation of evidence means deliberate and specific action taken or caused to be taken with the intention of preventing contamination to, damage to, the loss of, or destruction of, any evidence including the recording, storage and maintenance of continuity of such evidence.

3. Duties of First Officer Attending a Crime Scene

The general manager of a corrective services facility must provide for the management of first officer response to an incident.

On arrival at a possible crime scene (incident) the duties of the first officer attending are-

  1. to isolate and contain the crime scene so that the area and any evidence located within can be preserved. Where a medical emergency is evident, refer section 3.1;
  2. touch nothing and move nothing unless there is a life threatening situation;
  3. if you do move something - keep a record ensuring you log all the relevant details such as original position, reason for moving the person/item of evidence;
  4. as soon as possible, take steps to secure the area from curiosity seekers and others;
  5. if possible, remain on the scene and send others to call superiors or investigative personnel;
  6. take precise notations of time and events as they occur. Refer administrative form - Major Incident Log;
  7. establish a “safe walk area” which will allow the direction of additional officers, if required through the crime scene and reduce the disturbance to the area. Officers should ensure that they proceed with extreme caution. Movement should be calm and deliberate and officers should be aware that possible evidence (eg. fingerprints. footprints) might be found on door, door locks, knobs, light fittings, floors and walls; and
  8. responsible for the security of the crime scene until arrival of an investigation officer (eg CSIU, QPS) or they are relived or re-tasked by a supervisor.

3.1 Medical emergency

Refer procedure - First Officer Response - Medical and Assault

If an injured person is at the crime scene, he/she must be given first aid immediately, even though valuable evidence may be destroyed. The first officer on the scene must-

  1. administer first aid until a detailed examination by a registered nurse, ambulance officer or doctor has been made;
  2. if there has been an attempt at suicide by hanging, call for assistance, take the weight of the person and loosen or immediately cut free the noose, making sure, where possible, to keep the knot intact;
  3. commence first aid and CPR until relieved by a health services person;
  4. when medical help arrives, without interfering with their work instruct them how to enter the area so as to minimise the risk of scent or evidence compromise.

.

3.2 Management of witnesses and suspects at the crime scene

If possible, suspects and witnesses should be separated and-

  1. witnesses should be instructed not to discuss the events, so as to prevent distortion of facts by suggestion or collusion;
  2. the crime scene should not be discussed with witnesses or bystanders; and
  3. officers should listen attentively, but unobtrusively.

3.3 Hand over to investigating officer

On arrival of the investigating officer, report all that has been learned and observed and all actions taken. The hand over briefing should include-

  1. identification of the physical boundaries of the crime scene both primary and secondary;
  2. the time that the crime scene was secured;
  3. the items observed in the crime scene;
  4. the safe walk area;
  5. what items have been moved, touched or removed;
  6. ownership of items located within crime scene;
  7. identity of the crime scene log officer;
  8. what recordings have been made of the crime scene. On arrival of the investigating officer(s), officers detailed to guard the scene must act only on orders from the investigator in charge.

No access to the crime scene is permitted without the investigator's permission, NOT even to other investigators or senior officers.

3.4 Documentation and records

At the first opportunity, the first responding officer must raise and maintain a running log of events including-

  1. day, date, time, location;
  2. timings of events (eg. movement of persons in and out of the crime scene);
  3. who was present at the scene when the first officer responding arrived;
  4. if known, who had departed the scene before the first officer responding arrived;
  5. establish basic facts;
  6. who has arrived and departed during the first officer's responding period of duty and or prior to the arrival of the investigating officer;
  7. in the event that medical assistance is provided and others are required to enter the scene, document those areas where they travelled and touched;
  8. note observations, in particular, visible evidence such as blood spills, footprints, weapons etc; and
  9. note conversations overheard or reported.

If the incident occurred in an accommodation area, the muster book or muster sheet must be secured as evidence (refer section 3), and a temporary muster book created or a new muster sheet printed from IOMS.

3.5 Preservation of a crime scene

Crime scene preservation must override any other consideration at the scene except for the provision of first aid or CPR to a victim who requires immediate medical attention.

If the crime scene must be disturbed then the first officer responding must immediately make a record of the disturbance such as original position, reason for moving the person/piece of evidence and the investigating officer made aware of those activities as soon as possible.

At all times, officers must preserve the scene and evidence in order for it to be viewed and collected by investigating police so that it may, if relevant, be used successfully in court.

4. Disturbing a Crime Scene

In general, nothing should be touched or moved at a crime scene. Exceptions may include-

  1. where evidence may be damaged or destroyed by weather;
  2. where it is necessary to render assistance to persons or to ensure their safety;
  3. to avoid damage or destruction of evidence by other persons;
  4. during the apprehension of an offender/s.

5. Methods for Securing and Maintaining a Crime Scene

The following methods effectively assist in preserving the scene-

  1. allocation of security staff;
  2. cordons;
  3. locking strategic areas or erecting physical barriers; and
  4. evacuation of all personnel and prisoners ensuring that all prisoners potentially involved in the incident are placed in a location which does not allow them to remove evidence from themselves (eg. clothing and bloodstains).

The most effective method of securing a crime scene is to evacuate the area, lock and secure and post a security officer. Other methods may include-

  1. crime scene tape;
  2. posting guards;
  3. rope cordons;
  4. placement of vehicles;
  5. markers, flags, signs;
  6. locking areas or buildings that are vital to the investigation;
  7. use of natural barriers (eg. fences, walls).

A logbook must be maintained at the scene to record all activities in relation to security officer, entry/exit changes, visitors and investigators to the crime scene. Refer administrative form - Persons Entering/Departing a Crime Scene

The number of personnel interchanging on security duty must be kept to a minimum to reduce the number of witnesses who may be required to testify in court that the scene was kept secure.

6. Prisoner Incident Referred to Queensland Police Service (QPS)

Where a prisoner has been identified as being involved in an incident which has been referred to the QPS and there is a reasonable expectation that criminal charges may result, a corrective services officer must advise the QPS of any interview to be undertaken

with a prisoner in relation to obtaining information regarding the incident. Interviews in relation to a prisoner's ongoing welfare (eg. by medical or psychological services staff) are not subject to this requirement.

The QPS will determine whether the nature of the interview is likely to have probative value and if a QPS officer should be in attendance.

If practical, any interview conducted must be recorded on a device that has video and audio recording capabilities. If a prisoner refuses to participate in a recorded interview, the general manager of the corrective services facility or QPS will determine whether to proceed with the interview. A prisoner's consent or refusal to participate in a recorded interview must be documented.

7. Preservation of Evidence

In the event that drugs, weapons or articles are found and it is reasonable to suspect that those items may have been used in the commission of a crime, including an escape, attempted escape, or security breach ,every effort must be made to protect the evidence until an investigation by qualified personnel can be initiated.

On the discovery of any of the above, the officer making the find must comply, if possible, with the following-

  1. do not touch the item;
  2. advise the general manager/duty manager, relevant manager, security/intelligence officer, correctional supervisor or duty officer, and
  3. carry out any instructions provided.

If it is necessary to move or investigate the item, an officer must wear latex gloves to move the item. Place the item (except for sharps) in a plastic bag or envelope and seal the bag or envelope. Any item that possesses features that would make storage in a plastic bag or envelope undesirable or unsafe (eg. syringes) must be placed into a sharps container and labelled accordingly.

The bag, envelope or container must be clearly marked prior to placing the item within with-

  1. the nature of contents;
  2. the precise location that it was found in;
  3. names of any person in the area;
  4. names of any person witnessing the find; and
  5. date and time of the find.

8. Continuity of Possession

To establish proof of continuity of possession, officers handling evidence/exhibits or passing evidence from one to another, must comply with the following-

  1. All evidence must be clearly labelled and marked showing-

    1. day, date and time;
    2. location;
    3. officer first handling evidence and signed;
    4. receiving officer handling and signed for; and
    5. each subsequent receiving person must sign for the item.

  2. The officer receiving the evidence must sign the handing over officer's official notebook, as having received the evidence and must record the following-

    1. contents as marked;
    2. day, date and time of receipt; and
    3. sign and print officer's name, rank and employment.

  3. The same record must be made in the receiving officer's official notebook. It is imperative that the evidence must be recorded in the evidence register and the person holding the evidence for a long period of time must secure the evidence in a restricted access area, in a secure cabinet or evidence safe. The safe must be such that it cannot be interfered with by a third party and to which the person holding the evidence only has access. The continuity and secure storage of evidence must be able to be proved in court.

9. Handling of Specific Evidence

The task of identifying, recording, collecting and interpreting physical evidence from a crime scene must be performed by the appropriate police personnel. Latex gloves must be worn at all times when handling exhibits to avoid contamination.

Only under exceptional circumstances, where preservation of a crime scene cannot be maintained, a supervisor must authorise the collection of evidence that may be lost, contaminated or destroyed. All physical evidence must be photographed (several times) on colour negative film stock or video recorded in situ prior to being collected, include a scale/ruler beside the evidence of interest.

9.1 Drugs

An officer should minimise all handling of illicit substances and retain the original packaging.

On the discovery of-

  1. liquids;
  2. medicines;
  3. powders;
  4. pills;
  5. solids; or
  6. LSD, microdots or sheets of gelatine

the officer making the find must package the whole item (including the original packaging) into a clip seal plastic bag or a sealable plastic container.

Any clothing found should be placed in a clean plastic bag or clean envelope. Any synthetic drug recipes should be placed in a plastic document holder or envelope.

On the discovery of marijuana (cannabis sativa) the officer making the find must-

  1. if it is growing, collect the whole plant including the roots and any seeds or seedlings and place it in a paper bag or paper container (including original packaging); or
  2. if the material is dry, place it in a clip seal plastic bag.

9.2 Documents

Documents may include but are not limited to-

  1. anonymous letters;
  2. extortion notes;
  3. indecent or threatening letters; and
  4. suicide notes.

Such documents must be handled with care, officers should-

  1. avoid applying pressure and making indentations;
  2. not attempt to repair damaged documents;
  3. smother burning documents but avoid using water to extinguish flames;
  4. package each item in a separate plastic envelope or large paper envelope.

9.3 Syringes

The following applies on the discovery of a syringe-

  1. liquid still present in a syringe must not be expelled;
  2. syringe must be placed in an approved sharps/syringe container only with the label marked that the contents are still present;
  3. one syringe only should be placed in each sharps container;
  4. staff must practice extreme caution when placing a syringe or sharps in a containerand subsequent handling of the container;
  5. if an approved sharps container is not available, the syringe or sharps may be placed in some type of hard sided container (eg. cardboard box, tin, bottle or plastic container); and
  6. the container must be marked clearly that the contents is a syringe or sharps and must be handled with extreme caution.

9.4 Ropes, twine, cordage

The rope, twine or cordage exhibit must be placed in a plastic bag and should not be altered in any way. In a suicide event, all of the rope, including the knot (which must remain in tact) is to be secured.

9.5 Firearms

On the discovery of a firearm the first priority is to ensure the safety of all persons in the immediate vicinity. Officers must ensure -

  1. only a qualified person handles the weapon;
  2. the weapon is secured in the condition it was found and removed to an area where the weapon cannot be touched or removed;
  3. no attempt is made to remove cartridges, dry fire or unload the weapon under any circumstances.

If necessary, additional barriers or protection may be placed over or around the evidence to protect from accidental or purposeful contamination, for example-

  1. a knife that may have been used as a weapon, could be covered by a cardboard box to prevent contamination; and
  2. a tape cordon can be used to prevent access to large areas that are required to be examined.

9.6 Flammable Liquids

Flammable liquids must be left in the original container if suitable for storage purposes. In the event that the original container is not suitable for storage the following steps should be followed-

  1. identify the contents of the container;
  2. if determined safe to move, move the container to a well ventilated area;
  3. decant the contents of the container into a non corrosive screw top receptacle;
  4. clearly label the container with time, date and place of discover, owners name, identity of contents and name of the officer seizing the exhibit.

9.7 Liquor

Liquor must be retained in the original container or poured into a clean glass bottle and secured with a cork or screw top. The container must be labelled with the identity of contents, time, date and place of discovery, owners name and the name of the officer seizing the exhibit.

9.8 Biological evidence (eg. blood stained clothing, seminal fluids, etc)

Each item must be packaged separately (eg. a shirt and trousers seized from a suspect are to be packaged in separate paper bags).

If the item is wet it must be handled in such a way that any possible spatter patterns are not destroyed. The item must be placed in plastic and put in a refrigerator clearly labelled “WET ITEM PLEASE REFRIGERATE”.

If the item is dry, it must be packaged in paper.

10. Fingerprints and Other Types of Evidence

In any crime scene there will be articles, items or things that will be able to hold a latent fingerprint, footprint or impression.

Special care must be taken to avoid walking on or touching any article, item or thing that may hold a latent fingerprint, footprint or impression.

A significant reason not to enter a crime scene unless absolutely necessary is that much of the evidence that is obtained from crime scenes is not visible to the naked eye (eg. blood stains which an offender/s has attempted to clean away).

DNA is invisible to the naked eye, as a result the area to be sampled will be directly based on information supplied by investigating officers, witnesses, complainants, scene observations etc. DNA can be subject to primary or secondary transfer from persons/objects. For example- if you witness an altercation and the offender has touched the victim in a certain place on his clothing this may be later used for identification purpose and to corroborate your version of events.

With the above in mind, officers must be vigilant to record all observations at a crime scene.

Endorsed by:

MARLENE MORISON

Deputy Commissioner, Custodial Operations

Approved by:





KELVIN ANDERSON
Commissioner





Version History

30/08/2011 Version 01