Is it a coincidence that the revelations of evidence loss have hit the headlines as we approach the deadline of the Home Office mandate for digital evidence compliance, which comes into effect at the end of April? writes Jamie Wilson.
Given that, since the mandate was announced, there has been very little publicity surrounding the ‘stick’ approach towards driving forces to implement digital evidence management strategies, I suspect that it is indeed a coincidence.
The BBC has revealed the findings of a joint Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary report which says that there was a “widespread issue” involving the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) “misplacing discs containing sensitive evidence and information”.
For members of the public reading such an article it is sure to shock, but for those working in police forces right across England and Wales it may not be such a huge surprise.
Discs are essentially physical pieces of evidence that need to be manually logged, booked-in, stored and retrieved, etc. With so many discs in circulation and physical storage space being limited, it’s perhaps not unexpected that on occasion they can be misplaced.
In 2014, the then policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green announced that by the end of April this year, all forces in England and Wales must be capable of sharing evidence digitally with the CPS and the courts.
One of the anticipated outcomes that this initiative would lead to was a significant drop in the use of discs as forces move towards lower cost, more secure and faster digital methods of capturing, securely storing and sharing evidence – recordings from Command and Control, body-worn camera feeds, videos and photos, etc.
What I’ve seen in the past 12 months from forces I’ve visited, or spoken with, has been hugely positive. There’s undoubtedly a concerted effort being made by senior officers to push forward the digital evidence agenda.
They’re being driven not just by a mandated obligation (if indeed this remains the case?), but a recognition of the operational rewards it can bring in closing cases quicker and making far better use of scant resources, enabling officers to do what they’re trained to do rather than creating, curating and couriering discs.
Jamie Wilson is Public Safety Marketing Manager (EMEA) at NICE Systems