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Digital Evidence in Sexual Offences - 253/20

Date Responded 09 March 2020

Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')

As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.

You asked:

I am writing to you under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to request information regarding your force’s process for collecting and analysing digital evidence from devices belonging to complainants of sexual offences.

I am asking for the following information:

  1. How many times has digital evidence gathered by your force been used in the prosecution of a rape case in the last 12 months? (please note: if this request is too broad, please provide information from the last 6 months).
  2. Has there been a use of digital evidence in a rape case that has been in favour of the victim in the last 12 months? (please note: if this request is too broad, please provide information from the last 6 months).
  3. How much has your force spent on equipment intended to extract digital evidence and data to date? (please note: if this request is too broad, please provide information on the last 12 months).
  4. In what year did your force start to use extraction tools to gather digital evidence?
  5. Does your force use cloud surveillance when analysing mobile phone and digital communications data?  (To clarify that by the term "cloud surveillance" I mean mobile phone extraction technology that includes cloud analytics / cloud extraction capabilities)

In Response:

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with both the Crime and Finance Departments of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested is held, in part, by Northumbria Police, however cannot be disclosed for the following reasons.

To establish a response at points 1 and 2 for last 6 month period alone would require approximately 919 records for rape and rape allegations to be located and manually reviewed to establish which had digital evidence gathered, then establish how many times the digital evidence gathered was in favour of the victim.  Even at a conservative estimate of 5 minutes per record, which we have considered as reasonable, we have estimated that to extract this information would take over 76 hours, therefore Section 12(1) of the Freedom of Information Act would apply.  This section does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimated that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit of 18 hours, equating to £450.00.

You should consider this to be a refusal notice under Section 17 of the Act for your request.

When applying Section 12 exemption our duty to assist under Section 16 of the Act would normally entail that we contact you to determine whether it is possible to refine the scope of your request to bring it within the cost limits.  However, from the information we have outlined above I see no reasonable way in which we can do so.

It should also be noted that had Section 12 not been fully applicable other exemptions would have been considered and applied where relevant.

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