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Uncertain Provenance - Digital Evidence in Context

Following a recent case involving indecent images, our instructing solicitors commented of us “We always receive a prompt and efficient service, but what is particularly helpful is the opening of other avenues of enquiry which hadn't been previously considered”.

A mobile telephone and tablet computer were seized from a defendant and charges of making and being in possession of indecent photographs of a child were brought.  It was alleged that an indecent image had been uploaded onto the ChatStep website (a temporary chatroom website) and that up to 40 indecent images were present on the phone and tablet; all of which the defendant denied knowledge of. 

KBC digital specialist Mark Henderson reviewed the evidence and found that some of the images were in locations on the phone and tablet that would not have been readily accessible to a user without specialist knowledge or software.  In relation to their classification, Mr Henderson deemed only 3 out of the 40 could be categorised as being indecent images of children. 

Mr Henderson went on to investigate the provenance of the images.  As a result, he was able to demonstrate that certain images had been cached in Google, Facebook and Twitter.  This means these images would have been saved automatically when a webpage or application on which they existed was accessed by the user.  Mr Henderson was able to partially reconstruct original webpages and show browsing history around the time that the images were cached, which included legitimate sites the defendant accessed.  Mr Henderson concluded that the indecent images had been included within larger collections of images automatically downloaded from these sites and could therefore have occurred without the defendant’s knowledge.  He went on to find there was no evidence to demonstrate that an image of any sort had been uploaded via ChatStep. 

At trial, the prosecution accepted Mr Henderson’s report and offered no evidence in the case.

If you would like further advice on cases involving indecent images on mobile phones or other digital devices, please contact Mark Henderson or Thomas Marryat on 0191 332 4999.

Posted July 2017.