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Criminal defence lawyers are also becoming educated on the benefits, as they require the latest specialist techniques to retrieve crucial evidence from digital devices, which in the past may not have been available or even known to be possible.
The noted importance of digital forensics in Ireland and its subsequent use across a range of criminal cases has spawned industry experts. These specialists employ a powerful range of analytical technology platforms and cover a full range of digital forensic techniques;
This involves the analysis of ESI (Electronically Stored Information) taken from a computer’s hard drive, where a forensic specialist can obtain a range of information including internet activity, email correspondence as well as retrieving ‘deleted’ data.
Utilising specialist techniques, mobile phone forensic investigators can retrieve almost any information from a mobile phone, including SMS, emails and call history. With the prolific use of mobile phones, the ability to recover this data is critical within criminal cases.
Evidence obtained from audio visual forensics can be critical to the outcome of a civil or criminal case. Whether the data is extracted from CCTV footage or mobile phone, the ability to enhance, restore and authenticate audio or visual evidence is heavily relied upon in court.
A technique used to pinpoint the geographical location of a phone when calls and SMS messages are sent or received, or a GPRS session is open. Cells site experts gather this data and use it to generate detailed reports of a phone’s location that are then used as evidence in court.
Although the digital forensic techniques listing above are on the whole being utilised by The Gardaí, there are apparent drawbacks.
A report from a criminal investigation can be thousands of words long and fairly incoherent and cumbersome to the untrained eye, a situation that frequently occurs. For a criminal lawyer whose time is precious, a multiple page report that contains all the data is not ideal, when all they require are the cold hard facts in front of them. In contrast, a report from a digital forensic investigator extracts only the necessary relevant information, providing the core factual information and saving time.
Serious cases involving organised crime, child abuse and indecent imagery have also been directly affected due to the long examination period. This is due to a 4-year backlog in the analysis of computers and other digital technology seized by The Gardaí, with understaffing of the Computer Crime Investigation Unit being the main perpetrator.
This has led to many cases being dealt with by a local Garda with minimal technical knowledge having produced reports of great length, with no filtering or investigation of any kind. This moves the onus of discarding irrelevant information on to the defence team, which is a process that can be extremely time consuming and costly, a task that can be carried out much more efficiently given the expertise and software used by digital forensics experts.
The utilisation of external digital forensics in Ireland is a logical choice to undertake given the severity of the circumstances. The dismissal of prosecution cases is not something to be taken lightly and any criminal solicitor should consider all possible avenues to avoid such a position.
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