With more and more time being spent online, important information for the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is now held on digital devices. It is now the case that the use of this information is a routine part of many investigations. Public confidence in making this type of information available is therefore critical for confidence in the criminal justice system and to the right to a fair trial.
I therefore welcome that the Government is going to strengthen the law governing the use of digital information extraction as part of criminal investigations. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill will provide practitioners and stakeholders certainty in this important area of the law. As it stands, the process of extraction of information from digital devices is undertaken by a number of authorities with investigatory functions. The PCSC Bill will ensure the legal basis for this practice to be undertaken is consistent across all authorities who use it.
The proposed legislation will introduce a new statutory power to ensure that the police can obtain digital evidence to prosecute criminals. It is important to remember that additional safeguards will be introduced to ensure that only information that is relevant to the investigation is taken. These safeguards are vital to protect privacy and support victims of crimes and others who voluntarily provide information to the police.
The Government will also publish a code of practice to guide authorities and ensure a clear and consistent approach to obtaining digital evidence from victims and others. The code will deliver guidance for authorities on how they exercise the power, including obtaining agreement of the device user and the privacy safeguards that must be considered before use.
I welcome these provisions in the PCSC Bill as they will provide clarity, ensure consistency in processes, and increase public confidence in the criminal justice system.