Forensics Remote Search and Review Pathfinder

Reference code: 
PCD 415
Date signed: 
31 July 2018
Authorisation name: 
Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor, Policing and Crime

Executive summary

Forensically recovered data from digital devices is critical to a majority of criminal investigations conducted in the Metropolitan Police Service. Demand for such data has consistently increased, with a consequent increase in the number of devices seized and volume of data recovered. The examination of recovered data is not only time consuming for officers, it is also becoming too complex to do manually. There is an immediate need for a simple data search and review software tool to assist officers with reviewing forensically recovered data for evidence and disclosure purposes.

The Tracks Inspector Remote Search & Review Pathfinder has three objectives:

  • Provide a simple data search and review tool to assist officers to review forensically recovered data for evidence and disclosure purposes;
  • Use the case data review to refine the search and review tool functionality and establish infrastructure required to scale the system;
  • Utilise the search and remote tool to test a selection of scenarios and use cases defined by various operational units.


The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime is recommended to:

  • Agree a 6 month Pathfinder project, with 20 user licenses that will provide access to faster, more efficient and effective data review, provide the opportunity to validate the infrastructure requirements of the software tool, perform stress test for data ingestion and an early validation of the expected costs to support the wider Full Business Case and deployment.
  • Approve a Capital Spend of £804k of capital which is in the current capital plan for the Next Generation Forensic Infrastructure - Labnet project.
  • Note that Forensic Services will fund a £57k Revenue requirement from an underspend in their staff budgets which will be vired to the supplies and services budgets.

Non-confidential facts and advice to the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (DMPC)

1.    Introduction and background

1.1.    The Mayor’s Police and Crime Plan 2017-2021 recognises that “rapid recovery of data from digital devices such as smartphones is critical to the majority of criminal investigations”, and makes a commitment to invest in this technology. Demand for digital forensics is increasing exponentially and now circa 80% of crimes involve the use of digital evidence either as direct evidence (for example cases involving indecent images of children) or indirect evidence that furthers the case.

1.2.    The examination of recovered data is not only time consuming for officers, it is also becoming too complex to do manually. The current system produces extracted data in a csv file or a pdf file, which officers often print out to scrutinise on paper. These are currently very difficult to search or analyse. A recent example within a case produced 77,486 pages from an iPhone. This type of volume is common place at the current time.

1.3.    Digital data is currently managed on removable media (DVDs / USB sticks) and requires officers to locate standalone computers to examine the data, and even then the tools available are inadequate. This process also exposes Metropolitan Police Service to serious risk of data being lost or stolen.

2.    Issues for consideration

2.1.    Since December 2017, there have been a number of high media profile cases where evidence disclosure in criminal cases has been found insufficient. All of these cases have related to the review of data recovered by digital forensic processes, where data undermining the prosecution case or of relevance to the defence case was not found by the officers’ reviewing data from offenders or victims’ digital devices. These cases have all led to prosecutions for serious crime being discontinued.

2.2.    The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and National Police Chiefs’ Council are urgently producing guidance on disclosure, particularly relating to digital evidence. CPS have issued advice on the extent to which data must be reviewed, to a level far greater than required under the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure.

2.3.    A primary cause of these failures is that the volume of data recovered by the forensic process is very large (often tens of thousands of messages and images on a single device), and the format of the data as provided to the officer makes it extremely difficult to search and review.

2.4.    Full implementation of the selected product is not immediately possible, and will be complex due to: Emerging extraction tools, ever evolving digital technologies, technical infrastructure requirements, system integration with existing/future systems and data volume storage requirements.

2.5.    The two-step approach (with the Pathfinder being the first step) offers support of the immediate operational requirement coupled with enabling greater definition and qualification of the longer-term full implementation of the Remote Search & Review function across the Metropolitan Police Service.

3.    Financial Comments

3.1.    The capital implementation cost of £804k is fully funded from the existing capital programme.

3.2.    The additional revenue cost for the 6 month pathfinder will be funded from an underspend in staff budgets.

4.    Legal Comments

4.1.    The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) is a contracting authority as defined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (“the Regulations”).  All awards for public contracts for goods/services valued at £181,302 or above must be procured in accordance with the Regulations.  This report confirms the value of the proposed contract exceeds this threshold.  Accordingly, the Regulations are engaged.

4.2.    This report confirms the procurement of a full solution will be through the MOPAC’s value added reseller contract with Insight.  This will represent a compliant route to market on the basis the MOPAC’s requirements are within the technical and financial scope of that contract.  This point is confirmed by Commercial Services.

4.3.    The report also confirms that the Proof of Concept pilot exercise was also undertaken through the MOPAC’s contract with Insight.  DLS are instructed that the market place was made aware of the opportunity to participate in the pilot and the extent was made known to all tenderers. This point is confirmed by Commercial Services.

4.4.    Paragraph 4.13 of the MOPAC Scheme of Delegation and Consent provides that the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime has delegated authority to approve all requests to go out to tender for contracts of £500,000 or above, or where there is a particular public interest. 

5.    Equality Comments

5.1.    An Equality Impact Assessment has not been conducted at this stage. The Pathfinder is anticipated to have a negligible impact upon staff.  The Strategic Inclusion and Diversity Unit at the MPS have agreed this paper.

6.    Background/supporting papers

6.1.    Report 

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