Mobile phones belonging to sexual assault victims will no longer need to be seized after digital forensic vans were rolled out by Nottinghamshire Police.
The force has purchased two unmarked “digivans” so that digital evidence can be copied at crime scenes, eliminating the need for devices to taken into police stations where backlogs can leave victims without their phone for months.
The £50,000 vans – funded by the Home Office – include state-of-the-art technology that also enable targeted and specific searches to limit intrusion.
Detective Inspector Mark Booth, who leads the force’s digital evidence unit, said investment in the digivans was a “no-brainer”.
He said: “These vans enable us to take technology to a crime scene, allowing officers to examine devices at the earliest opportunity at any location and, when appropriate, return them immediately.
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“The equipment and software also gives us faster access to the most relevant digital evidence. This helps reduce the number of devices that need to be retained for further examination, in turn helping to reduce backlogs.”
The growing digital footprint of victims and perpetrators has led to a sharp rise in the volume of data police forces are having to examine when investigating crimes over the past 15 years, particularly in sexual assault cases.
This has led to some forces reporting a digital evidence backlog of 12 to 18 months, meaning some victims have had to wait for more than a year to have their devices returned to them.
Indeed, a recent investigation by Channel 4 News revealed a backlog of more than 20,000 digital devices waiting to be examined by forces across England and Wales.
Nottinghamshire Police came out as one of the best performing forces, with just 31 phones, tablets and computers waiting to be examined which had all been triaged.
This performance was down to significant recent investment in specialist digital media and forensics officers, interns, graduate investigators, strict adherence to national proportionality guidelines, and the upskilling of other officers to examine devices linked to less serious offences.
Det Insp Booth said the two new digivans will further boost the force’s strong performance.
He said: “Thanks to these vans, we will be able to quickly identify what is evidence, extract that data and then give you the phone back.
“We won’t need to take it away from you or put it in an evidence bag or take it to a lab where it might sit for six months.”
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry said the arrival of the digivans was a “great example of how Nottinghamshire Police is striving to put those affected by crime first”.
She said: “I work with a lot of partner agencies who support people affected by sexual violence and abuse in Nottinghamshire, to help improve their experience of engaging with the criminal justice process, and projects like this can really help reduce their anguish and help achieve better outcomes.
“Supporting vulnerable victims of crime is a priority in my Make Notts Safe Plan so any improvements to the services they receive is a step in the right direction.”
The investment in digivans comes after the Government’s Transforming Forensics programme put forward £5 million to help police forces improve how they respond to rape or serious sexual offences and other serious crimes.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Gibson, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on Digital …….