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SIO Corner: Fast-Track And High-Priority Actions

This week we focus on the use of fast-track and high-priority actions in a major investigation

In this series we look at various aspects of life as an SIO. This includes the necessary skill sets for the successful SIO, the management of serious crime investigation and specific elements of investigative practice from initial response through crime scene examination and investigative strategies to dealing with suspects and the media. The articles are excerpts from the 2nd edition of Blackstone's, the 'Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook', written by two highly experienced SIOs (see 'About the Authors' at the end of the article).

Fast-Track And High-Priority Actions

These are a useful and effective way of prioritizing and allocating urgent and time-critical enquiries. The Murder Investigation Manual (ACPO Centrex, 2006), 41) defines fast-track actions as:

Any investigative actions which, if pursued immediately, are likely to establish important facts, preserve evidence or lead to the early resolution of the investigation . . . Fast track actions are often used during the first twenty-four hours of an investigation, but they may be required at other stages, for example, where another scene is discovered, a significant witness is identified, or a suspect is identified.

They are an invaluable tool for complying with the ‘golden hour(s)’ principles (the initial period where vital actions are necessary). It is also a responsibility of the SIO to review any fasttrack actions that are already allocated or in the process of being allocated. This is one of the three strands of the important A B C principles of investigation, where the C stands for ‘challenge/ check everything’. The SIO must be satisfied that fast-track action allocations are based upon sound and valid reasoning and good judgement to avoid taking the enquiry off in the wrong direction. As the enquiry progresses, even in the initial stages, any critical actions must be regularly reviewed against changing circumstances as and when any new facts and information become available.


On HOLMES2 accounts all High Priority actions should have ‘HP’ prefixed to the action text. This is because the action manager when viewing actions using the Action Queue manager function on HOLMES2 is only able to view the first 72 characters of the action text.

An important point is to set a controlling policy over how and when there must be updates provided on fast-tracked enquiries and/or completion timescales. There is little point in allocating prioritized actions if they do not get completed and resulted quickly. Therefore, there should be clear instruction and guidance on when and how to return them.

For example, an SIO may stipulate they require an update or completion provided verbally within 24 hours (or less), and a written or printed version within 48 hours, for all fast-track actions. Some examples of ‘fast track’ actions are:

Checklist — Typical fast-track actions


About the Authors:

Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a CID officer with Greater Manchester Police for over 31 years until his retirement in 2009. During his time as an SIO, he led a number of high profile investigations including operations into gangland violence at Moss Side, the Bolton murder of a teenage girl in 2002, and the Denton strangling case. He was a trained assessor for promotion and a qualified Authorising Officer under RIPA. Tony received 14 commendations and a first-class BSc Honours degree in social sciences and a Diploma in Social Policy & Criminology from the Open University.

Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit. With over 29 years in CID at all ranks Andy received the Homicide Working Group National Award for his Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Homicide in November 2006.

To see more details about the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook, or to purchase a copy, click here

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