Defence case reviews: the need for deeper digital investigation

20 March 2023

Digital information is integral to many defence cases. But without the proper tools and skills to analyse it, defence teams could miss out on critical insights. That’s why independent case reviews are essential for defence teams looking to strengthen their clients’ cases.

In this article, we explore the value case reviews can provide for defence teams and the best way to approach independent digital investigators

Why more case reviews are needed

There are certain things you do before setting off on a road trip – like testing your brakes and checking your tyre pressure. You can run a similar kind of health check for your defence case, by conducting a case review. 

New technology means more data – which can add clarity or complication to legal cases. It’s not always easy for defence teams to recognise the value of the data, because it requires digital expertise to assess. Digital evidence doesn’t just cover text messages and phone calls. There are countless other sources – such as public WiFi, IP addresses, GPS, Bluetooth, and social media data

Today, even our cars function as computers providing legal teams with a rich vein of vehicle telematics and tethered communications data to tap. Specialist knowledge of platforms is essential, but not always offered by law enforcement. Clarifying the digital case requires expertise across multiple platforms, devices, and sources.

Defence case reviews - Digital Investigation

The key features of a digital case review

The job of a digital investigator is to ask the right questions, identify gaps and test the evidence from the prosecution and defence sides, and open up new lines of enquiry. 

Typically, the client will approach a digital investigator with the scenario and set of materials for them to assess. At the end of the review, the digital investigator will produce a report on their findings in fine detail and a witness statement to use in court. Digital media investigators also apply their expertise to setting up the legal team’s digital strategy, ensuring data has been obtained lawfully and analysed fully. 

Some applications have time limitations, where data is only accessible for a certain period. Engaging with a digital investigator early can be the difference between missing out on vital information or obtaining evidence that can undermine the prosecution’s case.  

External digital investigators are frequently engaged post-charge, and given specific parameters around what they’re asked to review. Instead of approaching digital investigators with specific questions, presenting them with the full set of circumstances and case information can yield more useful results for your case. 

Digging deeper into digital evidence

Digital investigators can bring a case to life by replicating situations where digital evidence was created. Legal teams often build their case on extracted data, but this doesn’t always tell the full story – sometimes you need to see the information in its native environment to be certain of what the evidence is showing. 

Recently, our team of digital investigators put platform knowledge to the test in a serious crime case. Three suspects had been communicating via an image-based social media app, and one had sent an image to another. 

When the police examined their devices, they found this image with relevant text across it. Interviewing both defendants, one said they received it in that state. The other said they sent the picture without text. Our digital investigators set up laboratory-like conditions where they could send images back and forth, to see if it was possible to send the image without the text. They were unable to reproduce the exact circumstances where the main suspect was saying they sent the picture without text. This confirmed that the suspect had sent the image in question with text, implicating themselves in the crime. 

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With our increasing dependence on digital technologies, working with a specialist independent digital investigation unit can bolster your defence strategy. Connect with one of our experts today

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I can honestly say that your excellent customer service and communication has made our forensic instructions to you exceptionally easy. I am very conscious of the amount of time I must have taken up with various queries, requests, and then changed requests but you have always been very patient, polite and extremely helpful.

Case Review Manager - Criminal Cases Review Commission