The management of HSE material at HSL


This guidance advises on the requirements for the storage of HSE material at HSL.


The arrangements in this guidance must be followed in all cases where it is proposed to store evidential material at HSL. Such material (physical items, substances, body fluids and digital data, but not documents) may be of any kind obtained in the course of a criminal investigation and which may be relevant to it. The arrangements apply to material taken into possession by HSE or others, eg Local Authorities where the storage has been endorsed by the relevant FOD Enforcement Liaison Officer.

The need to store material at HSL should be given careful consideration. The normal reason will be for HSL to carry out analysis or testing of it. Exceptionally, HSL may act solely as a repository for storage on HSE's behalf, subject to the following conditions that must be met:

  • the material is new and relates to a live case, not simply a transfer from an evidence room at an HSE office
  • there is a realistic prospect that the case will lead to enforcement action
  • the material is too bulky to be kept in a local office evidence room
  • it is inappropriate for it to be stored elsewhere
  • an end date or review milestones have been identified and agreed.

On rare occasions, it may be necessary to store materials at a location other than the HSL site owing to its nature or particular storage requirements.

This guidance does not cover:

  • the collection of samples
  • testing and analysis of the material or the production of reports
  • the disposal by HSL of material held by HSE.


The specialist or lead investigator responsible for the material, or acting as the HSL technical customer, should follow the normal arrangements for requesting HSL support, and liaise with each other over decision-making. In doing so, they should consider the following issues and take action as indicated below:

  • conveyance of material from the investigator to HSL
  • retention at HSL
  • disposal or return of material
  • recovery of associated costs.

Conveyance of material

  • agree arrangements with HSL for the collection and conveyance of the material to ensure its security at all times
  • specify the relevant requirements, for example, time constraints, continuity (and corroboration if storage is for Scotland), risks associated with the material and its collection
  • work with the duty holder (or a sub-contractor), where appropriate, to assist with the recovery and transportation of the material, eg from offshore
  • submit the request on the HSE request form.

Retention at HSL

  • agree with HSL the method and conditions of retention (indoors, outdoors, refrigerated, maintenance, etc.)
  • liaise with relevant parties, for example, the discipline specialist, HSL and the owner of the material, in situations where the material requires maintenance to preserve it, such as an engine that may need to be started periodically
  • retain material relating to legal proceedings, and which may be relevant, until a convicted person is released from custody, and in all other cases for 6 months post-conviction
  • agree arrangements with HSL for reviewing the need for continued retention, setting dates for review or disposal.


  • seek to return or dispose of material as soon as possible in cases where there are no legal proceedings, and once the possibility of a judicial review has passed for a decision not to prosecute (see Background), and there is no over-riding business or legal need
  • the return of the material should be either via collection by the owner, or if the return or disposal is to be undertaken by HSL and this will incur costs to HSE, where appropriate, at the owner's expense (see Appendix 1).
  • Requests to collect, return or dispose of material should be made in writing to the owner (see also Operational Guidance: Material and evidence management (collection, retention and disposal)). Obtain, where possible, the permission of the owner (preferably confirmed in writing) where the decision is to dispose of the material; alternatively, proceed by giving them 28 days' notice of the intention if a response is not forthcoming (provided proof of receipt has been obtained).
  • take advice from the relevant specialist where the return of material involves risk, eg hazardous substances, as to whether safe disposal is more appropriate
  • material retained solely for determining whether there is a material breach should not be retained for more than 6 months after either:
    • the final invoice has been submitted (in the absence of any dispute)
    • the last query or dispute
  • inform relevant parties to civil proceedings (where known to be ongoing) of the intention to dispose of material.

Recovery of associated costs

Follow the guidance in Appendix 1 which addresses cost recovery under FFI and major hazard regimes, and costs of return or disposal.


The purpose of sending material to HSL is to undertake scientific testing and examination to effectively support an investigation, and/or to store the material, for subsequent proceedings. It is important to demonstrate that the material is properly preserved and continuity of evidence is maintained from the point of collection from the investigator to its disposal or return.

Once material has been entered onto the database at HSL, continuity is assured by HSL via and subject to their material tracking procedures (see HSL GP24 procedure and Operational Guidance: Material and evidence management (collection, retention and disposal)).

Early sharing of information about the material with HSL is important in order to make best use of the expertise they have in:

  • dealing with hazards associated with the material
  • dealing with situations that involve risk, eg a lifting operation to recover a crane
  • labelling and identification of the material – see Operational Guidance: Material and evidence management (collection, retention and disposal)
  • arranging recovery of the material
  • organising transport to collect the material from the incident scene or
  • ensuring security and continuity during transit.

For example, HSL have qualified staff who can organise and oversee contract lift plans to recover overturned or heavy machinery and place items on transporters.

In England and Wales a judicial review application must be made within three months of the grounds to make a claim first arose. There is no specified limit for a judicial review application in Scotland.


No specific organisational requirements.

Further references

  • For information on computer based evidence ACPO Good Practice Guide for Computer-based Evidence.
  • For information on the allocation of responsibilities between the lead investigator and specialist see: Specialist Assistance Procedure.
  • For information on requesting HSL support see: section 2.2. of Specialist Assistance Procedure; and for the use of external consultants see: Commissioning Reactive Support from External Consultants.
  • For information on taking reasonable care of material/evidence and its disposal see: Operational Guidance: Material and evidence management (collection, retention and disposal).


CSEAD Corporate Science Unit – for HSE's arrangements with HSL

Legal and Enforcement Team for legal requirements relating to material


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Updated 2022-07-18