The Forensic Science Regulator has warned in its annual report that criminal defenders commissioning forensic science reports based on price may not be receiving high quality advice due to low legal aid rates. The report states: ‘The current legal aid rates for experts makes establishing a sustainable and accredited business offering high-quality scientific advice to the defence extremely challenging.’
‘This risks giving a competitive advantage to those who have not prioritised quality, with consequent risks to the criminal justice system.’
Not surprising and something the cell site experts have been discussing for a long time. It is particularly apparent in an area of forensics such as cell site analysis. This is because it is currently one of the few unregulated areas of digital forensics. Effectively this means that anyone can claim to be a cell site expert. Believe it or not, this is very often the case. A number companies are offering the service of cell site analysis and then using member of staff who is qualified to conduct computer or mobile phone forensics. It is our opinion that a cell site expert should have experience of working in the planning and optimisation of a mobile phone network.
Currently, also due to cost cutting, many police forces use in house analysts to perform cell site analysis. The difference here is that within their statement they will usually refer to the fact that they are NOT experts and therefore cannot give evidence of opinion. They can only give evidence of fact. In many cases though the defence expert is not qualified to give evidence of opinion, yet due to no regulation being in place then they often do.
We are currently seeing a number of appeal cases where prosecution and defence both used cell site analysis, however the defence expert did not usually have a relevant back ground. It is obviously far less expensive to pay the wages of a non-qualified ‘expert’ and so therefore many companies can produce cell site analysis reports fairly cheap as they are also doing much less analysis. They generally agree with the prosecution evidence, rarely get called to give evidence at court and their reports never see the light of day.
All companies offering cell site analysis, whether by a qualified expert, a computer examiner or even where it is outsourced all charge the same hourly rate as set by the Legal Aid Agency. If your client is facing trial on a serious charge cell site analysis evidence may be pivotal to your clients defence.
The cell site experts at Footprint Investigations all have a relevant background and have conducted planning and optimisation roles within UK mobile phone network providers.
They have conducted in excess of 500 cell site analysis reports for both prosecution and defence and have given evidence at a significant number trials, many of them high profile.
CV and case history available upon request.