20 Jun 2023
by T/DCI Andy Bidmead, DCS Mark Greenhalgh

Supporting investigations through digital, data and technology | Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days

The Police Digital Service (PDS) is exploring how digital, data and technology can support victims, investigators and forensics teams. Funded by the Home Office and working with policing and tech providers, we are supporting the response to the government’s End-to-End Rape Review Report, in partnership with Operation Soteria Bluestone, which is working to transform the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO). A blog submitted by Police Digital Service (PDS) for Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days

Two focal PDS initiatives are working to provide solutions for RASSO:

  • Digital Evidence Project (DEP) is seeking to establish common standards and methods for using digital evidence with RASSO. It is also exploring how digital, data and technology can better enable forces with investigating these crimes. 
  • Digital Forensics Programme (DFP) is working in partnership with the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC’s) portfolio for digital forensics, technology suppliers, and the forensic science community. The programme is developing a range of services for critical digital forensics capabilities.

These endeavours are also informed through our work with partners, including techUK, to set the challenges of conducting RASSO investigations to industry. A RASSO Tech Partnership Board was formed in July 2022, with the aim of bringing together representatives across policing, partner agencies and industry to work collectively to drive technology improvements and solutions.

Since Autumn 2022, PDS through DEP has explored the range of technologies being used to support RASSO investigations. This work helps build a shared and deeper understanding of how policing uses technology, identify how improvements can be made and establish areas for greater consistency to aid officers with their investigations.

The 43 territorial forces across England and Wales and British Transport Police, have participated in an ongoing landscape review. This work has identified enhancements, which forces can adopt, and opportunities for national work to drive consistency and support wider work underway to improve investigations. For example, exploring better ways of maximising collective buying power with the tech sector. Findings also confirm the need for a national approach to accreditation and validation of new technology applied for policing and forensics teams to use. This supports work underway through DFP’s Validation Services Project, which is working to define the national strategy and scope in this area.

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Sensitivity and care with evidence involving survivors of rape and serious sexual assaults is crucially important to support them through an investigation and get their case to court. Often, digital mobile phone data provides vital evidence. 

Selective extraction (SE) supports the careful compilation of device data in a proportionate way, relevant to a case’s requirements that enables victims to have their device returned to them quickly, within the 24-hour target in the government’s end-to-end rape review report.

PDS’s DEP and DFP initiatives, are trialling existing software and opportunities for innovation with SE for use in RASSO investigations. Further work is currently underway to ensure these solutions comply and align with appropriate investigative standards, supported by products like technical specification documents to help forces with using these tools. Additionally, a new Selective Extraction and Examination app will be provided to officers, serving as a guide for decision making through the process of reviewing device data for consideration as evidence.  

Lastly, through DFP, more than £4m of Home Office of funding is allocated, for a second ‘Tech Uplift’ to deliver enhanced digital forensic technology and capabilities. The Rape Review Response Project phase two (RRRP2) is delivering hardware, software, training, and central validation support to 31 police forces. More than 240 devices including a combination of laptops, mobile devices and tablets are made available, supported by training and certification for more than 700 officers and staff, during the initial year of delivery.

These project outputs will assist in managing and acquiring evidence from digital devices, ensuring that victims get their devices back quicker, and where possible, only relevant information is selectively extracted and examined.  

 Additionally, using a range of tools suitable for many scenarios, RRRP2 will improve the quality of evidence police have available in RASSO investigations. This will increase the speed with which data can be selectively extracted from victim’s devices. Ultimately this will lead to a faster, safer and more sensitive service to RASSO victims and improve confidence.

All this work, delivered by, with and for policing by PDS, is providing capabilities and leading to future exciting opportunities for innovation to better enable investigation and forensics teams through digital, data and technology.

We are grateful to the support we have received through partners including the Home Office, forces we’ve worked with and organisations like Operation Soteria Bluestone and techUK.



T/DCI Andy Bidmead

T/DCI Andy Bidmead

Digital Evidence Project Lead, Police Digital Service

DCS Mark Greenhalgh

DCS Mark Greenhalgh

Head of Change, Digital Forensic Programme, Police Digital Service