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NPCC Responds to HMICFRS Inspection on Digital Forensics

01 Dec 2022

The publication of HMICFRS’s inspection of the use of digital forensics by the police and other agencies in criminal investigations is welcomed by the National Police Chief’s Council.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Digital Forensics, DCC Paul Gibson said:

“Today, virtually every crime has a digital element, often involving vast amounts of complex data. This presents policing with a serious challenge. We recognise this, and the need to do more, and are taking action.

“The NPCC published the Digital Forensic Science Strategy in July 2020, laying out a roadmap for improving the provision and use of digital forensics across law enforcement. In line with this, a range of activity is underway. For example, we are trialling the use of automation in cases relating to child sexual exploitation, in order to free up capacity within digital forensics units to focus on other crimes and tackle backlogs. In one force that has trailed this initiative, cases were processed 55 per cent faster on average, with 9.5 hours per case being saved.

“Through Operation Soteria, part of the Government’s response to the 2020 Rape Review, we are improving how every element of rape is dealt with. As part of this, we have delivered a range of mobile frontline digital forensic tools to enable forces to take technology to victims of rape. This includes a £5 million roll-out of mobile digital forensic vans and specialist digital equipment, with further investment supported by the Home Office this year. This initiative means we can provide a more sensitive service to victims, give investigators faster and more proportionate access to the right digital evidence and enable them to return devices more quickly.

“As this report shows, there are key challenges ahead and there needs to be a stronger emphasis on understanding demand and complexity, and the capacity and capability needed to dramatically improve the service to victims and improve public safety, justice and confidence.

“I support the direction and recommendations made alongside key opportunities to drive improved operating models; including policy and legislation, exploiting cloud-based technology, and improved digital work management systems that are accessible to all. The report is an important driver for positive change, but will require considerable investment to transform services to give the best possible service to victims of crime.

“The recommendations will now be considered in detail with forces and our partners to inform the future response to the considerable digital forensic challenge.”

Notes to editors:

  • The roll-out of improved mobile frontline digital forensic tools for victims of rape and serious sexual offences commenced earlier this year, and forms part of the work police are doing through Operation Soteria to look holistically at every element of how rape is dealt with and investigated.
  • The delivery of automated technology to assist in combating child sexual exploitation online is an important development and this year the NPCC and Home Office have supported a £30 million national programme to coordinate and support forces in specialist approaches to the automation of digital examinations, selective extraction of data to pinpoint relevant evidence and the accreditation and quality assurance of digital forensic methods.