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State auditor finds Utah Courts have inadequate evidence management practices

SALT LAKE CITY — The office of the State Auditor released a report on Wednesday that was critical of Utah District and Juvenile Courts.

Specifically, the audit found the courts are practicing inadequate evidence management, control, and disposal.

Additionally, the audit found a lack of training and weak policies and procedures.

State Auditor John Dougall said in a statement, “The Court System’s current tools and evidence management practices are not adequate to implement the needed level of evidence security.”

In response, the state courts are acknowledging a need for better training, but are pushing back on the idea that their practices are faulty.

“We’ve never received any reports that evidence has been missing in a particular case that has caused any sort of trouble in hearing a case or any sort of evidence that’s needed for trial,” explains Geoffrey Fattah, State Courts PIO.

They also want to reassure the states populace, especially those currently involved in an ongoing court procedure, that evidence isn’t being compromised in any manner.

“We want the public to know that we do maintain evidence, we do keep it in a secure place,” says Fattah. “We do have clerks that manage and handle the evidence day to day.”

He says one of the more difficult components pertaining to evidence management is the disposal process.

Rules about safeguarding and handling are less than crystal clear, leaving room for error.

“We could do a better job of tracking that evidence and making sure that evidence returns to the parties or dispose of that evidence,” he explains.

Taking the “constructive criticism” in stride, Fattah adds that the courts appreciate the findings and they plan on ramping up their training protocol.

“We want to make sure that we do better and we want to make sure that evidence is taken care of properly,” he says.

The audit report can be found here.