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Paedophile Paranoia – Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

As a new recruit to the world of blogging (although I have been reading for many years) I’ve been waiting for something which I felt strongly enough about to post. One such story was recently sent to me by a good friend and fellow computer forensic investigator.

The story posted from the perspective of a Barrister’s wife, involves a 70 year old man charged with possession of Level 1 child pornography. Such is the stigma associated with offences of this type, it is hard for most people to consider that anyone charged could be innocent. The story goes on to detail the case far better than I can write and can be found here, in a fantastic blog which I am now avidly reading.

The “child pornography” it transpired was in fact innocent pictures of the defendants grandchildren playing  in the garden in the summer sun. I can imagine the descriptions that were put forward to the CPS, as I have had the misfortune to write them, and read them myself many times, over the 10 years or so I have worked in the field of Digital Forensics.

For those of you lucky enough not to have come across the levelling criteria for “child pornography  the levels range from 1 (least serious) to 5 (most serious), and are defined by the content and nature of the image or video. Level 1 is defined as “Images of erotic posing, with no sexual activity”. This level is, in my opinion, most open to miss-interpretation.  The current procedure for some Police Forces, is for a computer specialist to run automated process to identify and produce every live and deleted picture/video still recoverable on a computers hard drive, and provide these to the officer in the case to review and categorise. The reviewing officer may have never carried out this process before, and as such will just apply their own subjective view of whether a picture fits into one of the categories. My view, having worked on a large number of these cases over the years, is likely to be very different to that of a “man on the street”. I am sure that early in my career I categorised pictures as Level 1, which  I would now leave out, as the definition of erotic, is pretty subjective. I am still shocked by some of the images which I see put forward as specimen charges, which frequently include just head and shoulder pictures.

I have come across more than several cases similar in nature to the one described, and it does indeed make me concerned for the future quality of digital forensic investigations, and the outlook for the criminal justice system, should the proposed changes to the legal aid system come into effect.

Lawyers Working Longer, For Less

Recent figures released by the Trades Union Congress [“TUC”] have shown that last year 2 billion hours were worked essentially for free in overtime without pay prix viagra viagra.

The figures further revealed that just under 50% of lawyers and legal professionals worked unpaid overtime that averaged just under an extra 10 hours per week. At a time when some in administration point the finger at “fat cat lawyers”, the TUC stated that only managers of financial institutions and those working in education put in more unpaid hours that Solicitors and other legal professionals.

The TUC was keen to highlight a financial element to the statistic and stated that when taking the average lawyers salary into consideration, this meant a loss to that individuals earnings of around £13,921.44 per year.

This excessive overtime was down to a number of perceived factors, the TUC added. These factors were identified as excessive workloads and “presenteeism”, which is where workers come into work despite issues such as serious illness, as they fear that not doing so would damage their job security.

The General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady stated, “Where employees regularly have excessive workloads, business [solicitors firms] should be considering whether a few more members of staff might help make everyone less stressed and more productive.”

It was further stated that, “A long hours culture is bad for workers’ health and their family life – whether the hours are paid or not.”

In relation to those people paid by the public purse it was added, “This simply is not sustainable and the government cannot continue to expect more for less.”

Forensic Photography – A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

As we embark into what looks like a fresh round of proposed changes and cuts to the legal aid budget, all eyes are focussed on how to get the most from criminal case preparation whilst keeping the firm’s costs proportionate. Despite the current view of the administration, an effective and fair criminal justice system is an expensive thing and good legal teams cost money. You only have to ask someone who has been accused of a crime what difference a tenacious and dedicated lawyer can make to their case and well being achat en ligne viagra. The financial squeeze is well and truly on and whilst law firms are taking stock on staffing levels and work load, many are releasing the cost and time saving qualities of forensic photography within their practice budget.

The Power Of Forensic Photography

The old saying has always been that a picture is worth a thousand words and this has never been more true for the legal profession. As more and more criminal cases have evidence served in an electronic format and the inherent problem of  bottlenecks for disclosure, there is much more of an onus placed on the criminal defence solicitor in being pro active with the case at hand. In many cases before the court there are issues of location, area layout, situation of witnesses, view points and obstacles to line of sight that all have to be considered.

Effective Case Preparation

Taking effective and clear instructions from lay clients can be a difficult process which is further exacerbated if the circumstances are drawn out and complicated. By utilising a system of forensic photography and locus reports it can clear many matters up and give you a straight forward direction for case preparation and it’s eventual presentation before the court.

Forensic photography enables the effective preparation of cross examination for witnesses who were present at the scene. When the witness statements are read in conjunction with the photographs and locus report, any weaknesses in the eye witness evidence soon becomes apparent. By adding forensic photography and locus reports to any case preparation exercise it can both highlight strengths and weaknesses in the evidence and allows you to deal with “definites” as opposed to the “maybes”.

Making The Evidence Clear

Even for the most experienced Solicitor or Barrister, attempting to present a locus specific case to a Court by advocacy alone, can be a difficult affair. There is much that can be lost in the explanation and inferences which can be drawn by the Court. When cross examining eye witnesses to the incident, it is highly difficult to test the veracity of their evidence when no one has any visual evidence as to the specific location in question. Forensic photography can prove in a positive way, whether or not a witness could actually have seen what they said. It is of no surprise that witnesses can be genuinely mistaken when making their original witness statements. It is only when presented with good, clear and detailed forensic photographic evidence can their original interpretation of the incident be effectively challenged.

All cases turn on the credibility of the evidence heard before the Court. The benefit of forensic photography is that is can speak for itself. When presented with a detailed, well drafted locus report and clear photographs any witness is left with little room to manoeuvre should their evidence need to be challenged.

What To Do Now

Forensic Image are market leaders in providing forensic evidential services for the legal profession. They have a specialist team dedicated to forensic photography for both criminal and civil cases.

Contacting Forensic Image is easy. You can call their expert team on 01925 654 555 or click here to send them an email.

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