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NPCC comments on Big Brother Watch report suggesting changes to the new digital evicence consent forms

23 Jul 2019

The National Police Chiefs' Council responds to a report released today (Tuesday 23 July) by Big Brother Watch criticising the police use of digital evidence consent forms in obtaining victim and witness evidence in criminal investigations. 

UPDATE: A new interim Digital Processing Notice will be introduced imminently. This new notice will reflect the Court of Appeal ruling in the case of Bater-James and Mohammed. We will work with the ICO and other stakeholders on a permanent notice and associated practice that will address the ICO’s recommendations in full.

Responding, National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Criminal Justice, Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said:

“The national digital consent form was introduced to bring consistency to the way forces were obtaining and recording the consent of victims and witnesses in providing their digital device for examination. Police have a duty to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry in every investigation and to meet the disclosure obligations under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act. In this digital age, reasonable lines of enquiry often include the examination of material stored on or accessed by digital devices. This can happen in any investigation but is most common in cases where victims and suspects know each other.

“We believe that the best way of meeting our obligations is asking for consent to search for particular, relevant material. The new form is intended to ensure this is done properly and consistently across the country. It is also important to stress that digital devices are not examined as a matter of course - only when data on a device could form a reasonable line of enquiry.

“We recognise the concerns of some privacy and victims’ groups and have been seeking advice from a wide range of groups to help us improve the process. We are strengthening training and investing in new technology, which will help to address concerns. We will look carefully at Big Brother Watch’s suggestions in their report released today, as well as the Information Commissioner’s investigation findings, which are expected soon.”