Skip to main content

& Technology
in Policing

PUBLISHED: 3 Mar 2023

Operation Yardbird

STAR project
A picture of hector looking muddy

Thames Valley Police process around 1,300 possession with intent to supply (PWITS) cases per year. These cases can take over two years to conclude, which has serious cost implications.  

At any one time, there are approximately 1,000 PWITS suspects with unresolved cases due to the length of time for cases to be processed. This means suspects are free to continue offending.  

The aim of Operation Yardbird was to examine whether PWITS cases could be dealt with in a more swift and efficient manner through innovative use of Evidential Drug Identification Testing and corroborative spectrometry, in order to bring offenders to justice quicker and reduce levels of re-offending.  

The project aimed to co-produce a process to expedite PWITS cases through the Criminal Justice (CJ) system through an innovative ‘in house’ method for dealing with drugs analysis, supported by a clear process agreed by the Police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Judiciary.  

As part of this, several key anticipated benefits of Operation Yardbird were set out, including: 

  • creating time efficiencies across the criminal justice system; 

  • reducing the costs police forces incur in managing the forensic aspects of PWITS investigations; and 

  • making a positive impact on the detection, interception and prosecution of county lines related criminality. 

By utilising a range of data sources, the team was able to achieve a number of the project’s objectives:  

  • the use of an internal forensic examination of Class A Drugs was of sufficient quality when compared to samples sent to the lab, and there was no challenge raised in relation to the process  

  • cases expedited through Op Yardbird showed a high level of guilty pleas at the first hearing stage and an increase of cases being charged 

  • savings were realised when the cost of employing a forensic drugs co-ordinator to complete the work in house was compared with the cost of sending all items to an external labs for review 

  • examples of better communication and collaboration across the criminal justice system. 

Liverpool John Moores University provided the evaluation and produced the final report for the project.