Police forces have more than 20,000 digital devices waiting to be examined, according to a Channel 4 News investigation. A Freedom of Information request submitted to the 45 police forces across the UK found that a total of 21,022 devices, which includes mobile phones, tablets and computers, were waiting for examination. The two biggest forces, the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police, refused to disclose data.
Chris Porter, the Met’s director of forensic services, told Channel 4 News that forces faced an ‘exponential growth’ in the volume of digital evidence. ‘The ability of policing to keep up with the demand is challenging,’ he said.
The report included an interview with Amy Pearson, who was raped in April 2017, and waived her right to anonymity because of concerns over how police handled her case. She told presenter Jackie Long that her phone was held by Suffolk Police for more than four-and-a-half years after she reported the attack the next day. She claimed investigating officers demanded information beyond relevant messages and pictures between her and the suspect including her internet and shopping history as well as Booking.com searches. ‘I felt like I was always being watched,’ Pearson said. ‘It was like I was the criminal and he was the victim. They were pulling me apart to see what sort of person I was even though I was the victim.’
Channel Four News noted, the government has pledged to return rape victims’ phones within 24 hours and end overly excessive extractions of personal data (so called ‘digital strip searches’) in a bid to reverse the steep decline in convictions. The programme also featured an interview with Liam Allan, wrongly accused of rape in 2017. He talked about his experience as well as those claiming to be falsely accused people who have approached his support group, The Defendant. ‘They are screaming they are innocent,’ he said, describing suspects’ frustrations over the failure to efficiently process devices,’ he said.’ A lot of people are saying they know the evidence is there. They have told the police, “it is in that phone, give it to me and I will show you. Download it. Take whatever copies you need but give me the phone and I will show you where it is.”‘