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Plod to get computer forensics 'breathalyser' next year

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UK police may be forced to develop a bespoke digital forensics device for seized computers after testing of market offerings failed to meet price, technical and speed standards.

A special Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) group has been working on a national rollout of what's been dubbed a "digital breathalyser" for seized computers. However, six out of seven commercially available products tested have fallen short.

The final device will be scrutinised shortly. If it too fails, companies will be invited to tender for a contract to meet a March 2010 deadline for devices on the front line, said Assistant Chief Constable Colette Paul, who leads the ACPO group.

It's hoped the device will help clear large backlogs of computers and other data storage equipment clogging evidence lockers for up to two years at some forces. ACPO plans for the "breathalyser" to allow officers with only basic technology training to gather and analyse digital evidence.

Paul said about 65 per cent of the backlog comprised seizures from child abuse investigations. The rest covered the full range of crime.

She added that front line officers needed training on when to seize computer equipment, saying part of the backlog was caused by too many "speculative seizures" by technologically naive detectives. ®

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