Thorough investigative knowledge is required in computer forensic cases – Consultation with an expert is essential!

Prosecutions involving forensic science invariably require expert witnesses to assist juries with their understanding of the technical issues. It is only right that the highest standards are expected of those witnesses. In digital forensics the Forensic Science Regulator is seeking to ensure this by requiring experts to achieve ISO accreditation

Case Scrutiny

However, there are other aspects of the case that may require scrutiny, which fall outside the expert’s control. Eurofins Forensic Services have found that the technical examinations carried out by the prosecution rarely give cause for concern, as experts for prosecution and defence are adhering to the same guidelines; many, like Eurofins, providing services to both prosecution and defence.

Incomplete Instruction

The issues are often due to investigators not communicating effectively with their own experts. On occasions not all evidence of potential relevance is submitted for examination. The expert’s brief can be restrictive; there are times when the methodology and even the software to be used are proscribed by the investigators.

Another factor is the shortage of experienced detectives. This has been noted at a national level in studies of rape and fraud investigations, both of which regularly feature digital forensics. The Forensic Regulator in her annual report[i] stated:

“The audit highlighted that there is a risk concerning the level of training, skills and experience of personnel within policing making initial evaluative strategy decisions.”

The HMIC noted in its Police effectiveness report[ii]:

“Investigations could be carried out by a range of different officers in the force. These might not always be experienced investigators but were sometimes uniformed neighbourhood or response officers who had limited investigative experience and were ill equipped to deal with the complexities arising from fraud investigations… a severe shortage of qualified detectives and other investigators and has concluded that this now constitutes a national crisis”.

Another factor is changes in the forensic market, there has been a move towards commodity type submissions with extensive descriptive specifications dictated by the customer. Austerity cuts have lead to closer control and a limit on spend. The traditional forensic market has shrunk from £130 million pounds a year, 10 years ago, to closer to £70 million today. It is more difficult to predict the digital spend due to the on-going development of in-house law enforcement teams.

Case Examples

The following are some examples where Eurofins has challenged the initial case Prosecution case:

• Subject charged with breaching SOPO by possessing file deletion software on three computers, despite HTCU exam only reporting software existed on one computer. Eurofins analysis showed that software had been installed as part of larger suite of computer management tools day after SOPO issued and had never been used. Outcome: Case discontinued.
• Female provided investigating officer video files by email and USB drive which she claimed were evidence of her being raped by former partner. Subject was arrested and charged with rape. He asserted that the sexual activity was consensual. HTCU were only asked by investigator to copy extracts from supplied video files. Eurofins reviewed case papers and identified that video files were named as though in sequence but sequence was not complete. Defence attempted to obtain a forensic image of the computer/phone belonging to the aggrieved. Outcome: Prosecution decided to offer no evidence and the case was discontinued.
• Social media provider supplied Police with intelligence report showing chat logs which indicated that subject was uploading indecent images of children. The investigating officer attempted to introduce the logs by producing them as her own exhibits. Eurofins reviewed the case and advised that there were questions that could be asked about the provenance of the logs. If they were to be used in evidence they should be properly produced by the provider. Outcome: The subject pleaded guilty to other charges but the alleged distribution within the intelligence reports was not pursued.

In summary, it is suggested that any case involving digital forensics is worthy of consulting expert advice. Eurofins would be happy to provide an initial assessment based on the available papers. Even in anticipated guilty pleas there are many considerations that may affect sentencing, particularly involving indecent images. The fact that there is evidence provided by a forensic expert may not tell the whole story.

Trust the experts

Our difference is our people, Eurofins Forensic Services draws experts from a variety of high integrity technical investigative backgrounds including law enforcement, military, digital science and IT information security. This skill and experience combination allows us to offer leading edge digital detail, and also the natural intuitive and curious bigger picture investigative mind set for reviewing prosecution digital evidence where others may not.

Our experts are all courtroom trained and can explain complex matters in a simple manner. Our investigators are trained to make sure everyone concerned understands the technology we use, as well as the implications of the information being put before them.

The Eurofins Digital Investigation Unit hold ISO 17025 and Forensic Regulators Codes of Practice accreditation across a range of digital disciplines with further additions planned ahead of October 2017. The schedule of accreditation for Eurofins Forensic Services can be viewed at www.ukas.com.

For further information in confidence, please contact us +44 (0)844 2641 999 or visit our website www.eurofins.co.uk/forensic-services/

Alternatively, Ceri Walsh our Digital Business Development Manager will be happy to take your call.

Contact Ceri on: Tel: 07843 598 838 or email: ceri.walsh@lgcgroup.com

[i] www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/581653/FSR_Annual_Report_v1.0.pdf

[ii] www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/581653/FSR_Annual_Report_v1.0.pdf

 

 

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