October 01 2013
Related ServicesComputing and Digital Evidence
On 17th October, the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer published final guidance on the prosecution of cases involving child sex abuse (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24555303). In welcome changes, prosecutors are guided to focus on the credibility of allegations, not on whether victims make good witnesses.
It was also announced that all suspects in child sex abuse cases will be investigated to see if they possess indecent images of children. In our experience, this is already happening. However, there is a risk that suspects are being pre-judged regarding indecent images because of the other allegations they face. This is seen in less careful charging, for example, in the overzealous classification of an image as indecent, or in not properly investigating provenance to establish whether a user was seeking indecent images or whether images were downloaded accidentally.
The possession of indecent images of children is a less serious offence than child sex abuse, but it is important to consider all the offences a defendant faces. As discussed in our article on recent firearms cases (here), the reduction in work undertaken by the prosecution under Streamlined Forensic Reporting means that it is often left to the defence team to check the charge is correct and to investigate if there is credible evidence to support it. In a recent case, the child sex abuse charges were separated from those relating to indecent images of children. As a result of our work, which showed there were no searches for indecent images of children and no selection of such images from the web, the indecent images charges were dropped, but only after the defendant had been found not guilty of child sex abuse.
It appears that in ever more serious cases the days of the prosecution proving their case are long gone. If your client needs help to assess the merits of the computer evidence against them we can examine it in detail and assist in your client’s defence if the evidence does not support the charges they face.
BSc (Hons), CFCE