The recent high profile collapse of a number of court cases in the UK because of problems over the proper disclosure of evidence only serves to highlight the difficulties police and prosecutors face in managing high volumes of data.

Such is the scale of the problem that all current rape and sexual assault cases in England and Wales – a figure put as high as 900 – will be urgently reviewed because of fears there has been a failure to share digital evidence – from computers, phones and social media for instance – with defence lawyers.

Leading law enforcement agencies in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing have launched an “improvement plan” to review training, create specialist disclosure expert roles in all police forces, and ensure all multimedia evidence is provided to the defence digitally.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders outlined the problem facing police and prosecutors when she told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): “Changes in society, such as the vastly increasing use of social media and mobile phone messaging, bring challenges that all parts of the criminal justice system, despite the resourcing challenges, must deal with.”

Police forces are struggling under the weight of historic and current data, which is coming at them from all angles.

And it’s not only in rape and sexual assault cases.

More and more police effort is being given over to investigating things like terrorism and money laundering where the paper and digital trails can often cross national and international borders.

And while some of the issues surrounding disclosure may be down to poor practice, there can be little doubt that better tools for managing data could only benefit investigators, so that all necessary information is gleaned from the data available and delivered to the appropriate people at the appropriate times.

It’s not a UK problem, either. At Dynactionize we’re currently working with European law enforcement and fraud investigation agencies who face the same problem of making the appropriate connections across diverse datasets, historic and modern, and discovering insights within the masses of unstructured data that mean all of the data can be queried in the same way.

Data overload can never be an excuse for injustice, but gaining clear insight into data and being able to deliver it where it is needed, quickly and efficiently, is undoubtedly a step towards avoiding it.

by Roy Williams

Roy Williams is MD of Dynactionize Ltd