It is no secret that the successful resolution of Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) cases remains incredibly difficult, with victims facing unprecedented wait times for their cases to be investigated and low charge rates for reported rapes. PDS’s Digital Evidence Project (DEP) is already working closely with the Home Office’s Advanced Capability Environment (ACE) to tackle this, and identify how digital, data and tech can help.
To this end an Impact Lab was launched earlier this year, with more than 200 attendees made up of tech companies and stakeholders present at the launch event. The attendees were presented with the four key challenges to tackling RASSO cases:
- Victim’s experience – how the victim’s experience is at the forefront of thinking around the investigative process and technology used to support.
- Acquisition/extraction – referring back to previous slides – how device data is extracted from devices.
- Processing of digital evidence – analysis and review of digital material and device data. This includes how information is stored.
- Presentation – how digital evidence is outputted to CPS / judiciary and defence teams.
They were given access to data from Avon and Somerset and North Wales forces to allow them to see the complexity of data processed by forces during these cases. From March through to May, a selection process was undertaken for the tech companies participating and pitching their ideas to ACE, DEP and representatives from the forces involved.
This led up to an Impact Lab Showcase that was held in late May, where suppliers presented the solution concepts to stakeholders. A number of those are being taken forward for development by ACE and by PDS, with the potential for the other solutions to be developed by forces on an individual basis.
These proofs of concept are supplementing existing trials of capabilities with British Transport Police, Northamptonshire Police and Kent Police, commissioned by DEP, to support force RASSO investigations. The trials are exploring how technology can be used to selectively extract data from digital devices, addressing a key challenge of being proportionate with the information victims provide for use with their case.
There is still a long road ahead, but once they are fully developed there is hope that these new tools can have a real impact on RASSO cases and, ultimately, improve outcomes for victims of these life-shattering crimes.