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Digital Evidence – Publication of the fifth edition of the ACPO Guidelines

July 01 2012

Although this publication is unlikely to hit the ‘must read’ list for most solicitors in criminal practice, the guidelines set out clearly the four principles for the acquisition and processing of digital evidence.  Principle 3 reiterates that the record of how an examination has been undertaken should enable a third party to follow the same processes and achieve the same result.

In a surprising number of cases, prosecution reports are found to be “sketchy” in relation to the processes undertaken and even as to the identifiable location of alleged evidence.  A degree of familiarity with the principles will assist the defence legal representatives when requesting further material from the prosecution.  Such material can be essential to the digital forensics expert instructed on behalf of the defence in establishing the areas of digital evidence that have been examined and what other avenues, if any, should be explored, given the account of the defendant.

Steve Guest of Keith Borer Consultants, who was a member of the review board for the guidelines, commented “These guidelines reinforce the proper structure for the processing of digital evidence in a rapidly changing technical environment.  It recognises that the process of examination often involves research and testing both in relation to new technological developments and undocumented areas of existing systems”.

With the widespread use of digital devices, forensic experts have an ever increasing source of hard evidence to contribute to the justice process.  Digital evidence is no longer an esoteric or peripheral matter. It can be at the centre of the evidential material in traditional criminal cases, not just those involving the misuse of computers.

Dr L Jane Bloor, Director

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