Government ministers have met with senior police officers and prosecutors at a high-profile summit aimed at improving the disclosure of digital evidence in the criminal justice system. Solicitor General Lucy Frazer QC and policing minister Nick Hurd hosted Max Hill (Director of Public Prosecutions), Metropolitan Police Service assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave, Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird and representatives from the UK technology industry at The Law Society’s offices in central London.
Attendees focused on the handling of digital evidence disclosure in criminal cases and considered how police and prosecutors can be supported to better handle the increasing volumes of digital evidence and ensure victims ultimately receive the justice they deserve. This included a review of what programmes are currently being used to decipher evidence and also a consideration of technological innovations.
Lucy Frazer QC said: “We need to do more to support the police and prosecutors to adapt to the increasing volume of digital material in the criminal justice system. The Government is also determined to ensure that victims of sexual violence and all other crimes are not deterred from seeking justice because of fear of what could happen to their personal information. We must ensure full public confidence in the disclosure system.”
Nick Hurd responded: “It’s vital that we maintain public confidence in the police and our criminal justice system to make sure victims are not let down. Technological advancements have created challenges – the average mobile phone is now capable of holding the data equivalent of around five million A4 pages. Police services recognise the need to improve and it’s right that the Government works with police forces, prosecutors and the tech sector to make sure both victims and criminals do receive the justice they deserve.”
The Tech Summit follows on from a disclosure review by the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox in November last year which found that digital evidence wasn’t always handled correctly by police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), thereby leading to concerns about miscarriages of justice.
The review acknowledged that increasing volumes of data stored on smart phones and other devices had significantly increased the workload of investigators and prosecutors examining digital evidence.
Attendees at the Tech Summit also included Mark Gray (CTO at the CPS), Ben Denison (CTO at the Serious Fraud Office), Mark Sweeney (director general of criminal justice policy at the Ministry of Justice), deputy chief constable Janette McCormick from the College of Policing, Melissa Mathieson (head of investigations at the Information Commissioner’s Office) and Jessica Russell (programme manager at Tech UK).