« back

UNICRI launched in cooperation with the IAP the Prosecutor’s Guide to Chemical and Biological Crimes


Global risk reports draw attention to the ever-changing threat landscape both natural and deliberate in scope. Changes in political history, technology, and social networks, have facilitated the abilities of individuals and criminal networks to operate, procure funding and develop capabilities at a rapid pace.

The deliberate and malicious use of chemical or biological agents within a civilian environment, requires planning, organisa- tion, communications, and may involve interactions with several entities, potentially across a number of regions and countries. These types of crimes are complicated by the dual-use nature of equipment and industries, and by the ease of acquisition for a number of high-risk chemicals, biological pathogens and toxins.

Successfully managing this type of threat requires effective and efficient intelligence-gathering, investigation, and prosecution. This relies heavily on the identification of key agencies, their roles and responsibilities, escalation pathways and information sharing protocols. It is important to acknowledge the various interagency dependencies, such as those that exit between major crime investigative teams and forensics services, and the need for increased awareness and experience in detecting, investigating, and reporting triggers and indicators of chemical and biological threats that may be linked to criminal activity.

Early identification by investigating officers of indicators of chemical and biological crimes, requires an understanding of their core characteristics and how they might be manipulated to cause harm. The protection and preservation of evidence and rapid assessment is also paramount to successful prosecution as such evidence can be transitory or easily damaged. In addition, the evidence itself can be harmful, posing challenges for response teams, given the nature of these infectious or toxic agents.

Early notification of the potential presence of a biological or chemical crime will afford the prosecution team valuable foresight to achieve success. Early interaction with the prosecution team can ensure the elements of each offence are obtained, supporting evidence secured, and intelligence gathered, to as- sist in preventing future incidents of this nature.

Fundamental to early identification of such crimes is the understanding of the lifecycle of a biological or chemical crime; this can assist the prosecutor to focus on key moments within the lifecycle to prove knowledge, planning, capability, possession, transportation and if required dissemination.
Crucial to successful prosecution is also the interoperability between national policing bodies, intelligence agencies, and the prosecutorial teams. Strengthening cooperation among these national bodies will increase the likelihood that perpetrators of such crimes may be prosecuted along any point of the chemical or biological crime lifecycle.

Due to the nature and complexity of these crimes, it is likely that outreach and assistance from international bodes will be required. This may be due to the requirements for expert advice, international investigative support, specialist laboratory analysis, or provision of resources. Strengthening awareness of the roles and resources that international bodies such as INTERPOL, EUROPOL, EUROJUST, OPCW, UN Organisations, IAP and the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence may provide timely support.

Strengthening the cooperation between police and prosecution agencies and expanding awareness and knowledge in relation to chemical and biological threats will provide a strong basis for prosecutorial success. UNICRI and the IAP are confident that this Guide will provide opportunities for strengthening the knowledge, systems, and frameworks from which we strive to support investigative agencies and prosecutorial teams in their quest for justice.
The full report can be accessed through this link.