The National Policing Improvement Agency’s new Forensic Centre at Harperley Hall was officially opened last month with Bishop FM and the Weardale Gazette as exclusive reporters on proceedings. The Home Office has invested a lot of money in the new building that has been hailed as one of the most progressive in the world.
Harperley Hall, built in 1858, is set in acres of beautiful countryside at Fir tree, just outside the market town of Bishop Auckland. It was the seat of the Wilkinson family, until it was gifted to the police authority that then used it as a national training centre.
The new facilities will be used to teach forensic science students from all over the country and features some of the finest new technology available. Included in the new development is a street scene in a practical training block where instructors will teach students the basics in scenes of crime. Housed in a huge building, the scene is straight out of a northern town with a high street that includes shops like Domino Pizzas, travel agents and a Weardale Gazette mock office representing the newspaper industry – road signs, a telephone box and even motor vehicles.
At the official opening the top brass from the Police and Home Office across the country attended to hear Keith Fryer, the Head of the Centre, make the welcome. He introduced Peter Holland, chairman of NPIA who described it as an excellent facility for the police service. “This is a really superb development, a first class facility that has been money well spent,” he said. “This new centre will make an immense contribution to policing around the country. Although it is first and foremost a forensic centre of excellence with an amazing degree of realism for young officers learning the job, there is so much more to it.”
The new buildings have been sensitively built to blend in with the surroundings and offer the optimum training facilities, under the best working conditions, without disturbing the natural beauty of the Hall and grounds. One of the buildings boasts a complete street of shops, road, and vehicles, providing an amazing range of training scenarios for future CSI officers.
The open day was attended by an array of police dignitaries, including forensic officers, chief constables past and present and all the members of the staff.