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Extra forensics team cuts digital evidence backlog to 31 devices

Nottinghamshire has just 31 phones waiting for forensic testing.

Nottinghamshire Police has revealed it has just 31 phones, tablets and computers waiting to be examined – and they have all been triaged.

The drastic reduction has been made by hiring staff covering roles including digital media and forensics officers, interns and graduate investigators.

As part of the initiative, other officers have been trained to examine devices linked to less serious offences.

The force has also enforced strict adherence to national proportionality guidelines and the College of Policing’s target to return devices within 24 hours.

Detective Chief Inspector Les Charlton added: “Our aim is always to investigate proportionately, not to collect unnecessary amounts of personal data and to turn these devices round quickly.

He added: “Simply, we will only ever proportionately review the minimum of somebody’s personal data – typically the messages they send and receive in the short period of time before and after an offence. In the vast majority of cases we simply have no interest in anything that may have gone before.”

According to FoI data, the national backlog stands at 20,000 devices.

Alternatives to lab analysis are also proving successful.

Bedfordshire has four digital triage vans - mobile lab allowing officers to have a discreet location to investigate devices and analyse digital data, reducing the need to bring items back to police stations for investigation.

This has brought the waiting time for analysis down by 80% with computer backlogs reduced from a year to a month.

As part of Nottinghamshire’s approach, the force offers a bespoke same day and appointment service to help victims.

Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “Ultimately this is about balance, retaining the confidence of victims and challenging some of the concerns we know they can have.

“Digital data has an increasingly vital role to play in our day-to-day work but we should never lose sight of the immense upset and inconvenience this can cause to victims," he said.

"That’s why we have taken the decision to heavily and creatively invest in this area of our work over the last couple of years and why we will continue to do so the future.”

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