In recent years, mobile phones and other digital devices have come to play an increasing part of daily life and as a consequence of their prevalence, material from digital devices is increasingly used as evidence in criminal investigations and prosecutions. However, concerns were raised that the extraction of material from these devices is excessive and in particular victims of rape and sexual violence are disproportionately affected by the intrusion.
This authorised professional practice (APP) has been developed taking account of:
- the Data Protection Act 2018
- the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)'s report
- the Court of Appeal judgement in the case of R v Bater-James and Mohammed  EWCA Crim 790
- other relevant guidance including the CPIA 1996, Code of Practice, the Attorney General’s guidance on disclosure and the CPS guide to reasonable lines of enquiry
Using a series of ten principles, this APP aims to ensure that police officers and staff obtain material from mobile phones and other digital devices in a fair and lawful way that balances the individual’s right to privacy against the absolute right of all individuals to a fair trial. These principles describe the following.
- Principle 1 – that extracting material must be strictly necessary and avoid unnecessary intrusion.
- Principle 2 – the provision of information to the device user.
- Principle 3 – how to request agreement of the device user.
- Principle 4 – understanding the device user’s right to refuse.
- Principle 5 – ensuring the material extracted is adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purpose for which it was acquired.
- Principle 6 – considering the safeguarding implications.
- Principle 7 – the obligations to update the device user and to review and correctly manage material obtained during an investigation.
- Principle 8 – sharing information.
- Principle 9 – recording actions.
- Principle 10 – implementation of the APP.