Rape cases delayed by months because of backlog in digital forensic processing

Hundreds of rape cases are being delayed by months because of a backlog in digital processing.

The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee heard that the issue is “a major challenge” for the Metropolitan Police, with delays of six to nine months.

The backlog is in cases where full downloads of material from phones and other devices are needed, or deleted messages need retrieving.

Committee member Caroline Pidgeon said that in Lambeth and Southwark there are 180 live rape cases, and 140 of those are facing delays, most of which are waiting for information from the forensic labs.

Head of frontline policing Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons said: “The scale of the challenge around digital evidence both in rape investigations and in other cases is such that this is a constant challenge for us.

“I’m not going to pretend that this is not a major challenge for us.”

He said that some waiting times have reduced over the past year, and there are measures in place to prioritise urgent investigations and moves to increase capacity.

Ms Pidgeon (pictured) told London Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden: “You have got people who have been raped waiting six to nine months to decide whether they’ve got enough evidence to take this to court. People’s lives almost on hold.”

Ms Linden said she has been in discussions to increase funding, and that there is “massive pressure” on forensic teams working for the Met, for reasons including the huge investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

Nearly 5,000 sexual offences and 3,200 rapes have been reported to the Met so far this year according to the London Assembly.

Reported sexual offences have risen 80% since 2011, and rapes by 140%.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.