DNA and digital evidence offer significant opportunities to support a fair trial in sexual assault cases. Which is why accurately reviewing forensic reports is crucial. Strong defence strategies rely on a thorough understanding of all the information provided and the confidence to challenge the evidence when needed. But defence solicitors face major challenges when it comes to unlocking the full potential of DNA and digital evidence, as we explore.
Why you’re missing out on valuable evidential opportunities
Streamlined reports have their place in the criminal justice system. They help expedite cases and minimise costs. But with less information comes the need for deeper analysis. Especially in complex sexual assault cases. For instance, your client might deny their criminal involvement though the forensic report suggests otherwise, with evidence of their DNA on the victim’s clothing. How can you defend your client’s case in this situation?
It’s not usually possible to recover time-sensitive biological evidence from the body of the complainant, if the complaint of sexual assault was made sometime after the event. But evidence could persist on other items such as clothing, even when washed. There still might be time to examine these items. And this, along with contextual information, could reveal another reason why the client’s DNA and/or semen was found on the victim’s clothing. In a family environment for example, semen could have been transferred by a wash.
Asking the right questions and requesting more information could help you build a stronger defence strategy. Getting to this point requires careful interpretation of the scientific findings within the full context of the case and your client’s statement. But defence solicitors don’t usually possess the scientific skills to do this. And it's unreasonable to think they should. They face a similar predicament with other types of forensic evidence.
Digital evidence delivers an essential human perspective
Digital evidence, such as mobile phone, cell site and social media data, offers insights into the motivations behind people’s actions — both victim and suspect. In ways DNA and fingerprint evidence doesn’t. It’s an essential, supportive function for defence solicitors and prosecutors. But it’s a complex area of forensics — an investigator needs to be able to interrogate all the data sources and piece everything together. Using a combination of digital tools and manual investigation techniques to verify evidence that can be attributed to a crime.
In law enforcement, Digital Media Investigators (DMIs) have the skills to identify and verify evidence from forensic reports that can be hundreds of pages long. But DMIs are spread thin. The task often falls on a detective constable who doesn’t have enough digital experience to properly evaluate the data.
The result: limited reports are often relied upon in court. Streamlined Forensic Reporting (SFR) exacerbates the problem. Making it even more critical for the defence solicitor to scrutinise the results and challenge any oversights. Was the device of interest checked for joint possession? Has an incriminating photo’s metadata been analysed to determine when and where it was taken? If such things haven’t been done, you’ll never know how they could have helped your client.
Leave no stone unturned with a thorough review of all the scientific evidence
All evidence, whether biological, digital, pathological or ecological, should be reviewed by experts in their relevant fields. And, where necessary, challenged on a number of levels. Ensuring that the forensic science presented in court is correct, accredited (where possible), balanced and contextually well-informed to support a fair trial.
What if you had rapid access to a team of forensic experts who review all of the scientific evidence for you? We can connect you to accredited forensic experts who will help you achieve the best outcomes for your client. By helping you understand the scientific findings in their case, identify the strengths and the limitations of the evidence and ensure that an optimal forensic strategy has been conducted - recommending further testing/investigation where applicable. In doing so, you can gain a solid understanding of the opportunities that could help you shape a more robust and effective defence strategy.
No need to spend time sourcing and vetting the experts you need to demystify the science. Our casework managers do all the leg-work. Hand-picking pre-approved experts who have the right qualifications, experience and, where relevant, licences needed to work on your case. Your casework manager will handle the process from start to finish. Liaising with the different experts on your case and acting as a single point of contact to ensure seamless communication.
Don't miss out on the evidential opportunities DNA and digital evidence can provide. Delegate effectively, save time and strengthen your defence strategy by calling us on 01235 774870 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.