19 Jun 2023
by Scott Fitzmaurice

Victims are not alone | Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days

Enabling the Police to carry out effective investigations and embracing the digital witness to tackle VAWG and RASSO. A blog submitted for Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days by Scott Fitzmaurice from Forensic Analytics

Policing is currently facing increasing public and media scrutiny, particularly when discussing VAWG and RASSO investigations. The code of ethics must sit at the centre of every decision and action. The police need the public’s confidence, in order too, continue to protect victims, protect property, and catch criminals.

Police are expected to make split second, life and death decisions, and those decisions will affect the public perception and view of the police.

These decisions are based on knowledge, experience, training, and competence. Ultimately what feels like the right and the wrong decisions, to those officers and staff dealing with the situation in front of them. You don’t know, what you don’t know.

If you try to make the right decisions for the right reasons, then the public’s trust will be maintained. I would always tell officers and staff on my teams, ‘Never be afraid to make a mistake.’

If an officer did not make an enquiry at the time, or ask the right questions, then is the investigation over? Were the correct procedures followed – i.e., PACE Code D – Identification? did you document an incorrect legislation and power of seizure, but another exists that would cover it – be accountable, transparent and assess avenues to rectify any errors or mistakes, without the fear of blame or in the mindset that all is lost.

This approach must be maintained, as competence will thrive, if you are able to learn, reflect, evolve, and innovate.

Individual standards differ and always will. How police interact and communicate with the public will vary and is reflective in the confidence of victims and witnesses to report offences to the police.

An effective baseline of training must be provided to all officers and staff. The analysis of digital data in 2023 is no longer ‘desirable’ training but ‘essential’. This is of real importance when investigating VAWG offences such as Stalking and Harassment and RASSO investigations.

Officers and staff are being expected to handle vast amounts of digital data such as communications data records and handset downloads with little or, no training and no access to software solutions that simplify this process. The obtaining of digital data has robust processes and training in place, and rightly so. But the dealing with that data once obtained, is inconsistent and siloed to specific departments. Often frontline teams are left reviewing excel spreadsheets and PDF documents manually, but not effectively. Imagine receiving a 60,000 page I-Phone download in PDF format to review? And that is just one download, from many in your investigative workload. How much CDR data is lawfully being obtained but not effectively analysed to its full potential?

It is no longer acceptable that digital data is not reviewed or analysed to the appropriate consistent standards, due to no access to software solutions, or analytical support. It is also a requirement that officers, and staff understand what can be requested and what is and is not possible.

The review and analysis of digital data is a ‘reasonable line of enquiry’ for most crimes in 2023 and it has been for several years. Gone are the days of being only traditional enquiries being considered ‘reasonable’ i.e., House to House, CCTV, Victim statement.

A real gripe of mine has always been the filing of investigations as ‘No Further Action’ based on ‘One word against another,’ which with the inconsistent and misuse of this rationale, has led to a decrease in victims’ confidence in the police. 

In a lot of cases, we have a reliable and credible ‘Digital Witness’ waiting in the wings, ready to corroborate a victim(s) and witness(es) account, be that via the analysis of communication data records, handset extractions, ANPR. However, it is not being used to its full potential.

Software solutions and training has now made this analysis, accessible to officers and staff.

How many cases could we revisit and say, ‘if we analysed the available digital data, we could have done more,’ I know first-hand, positive outcomes would have been higher, more convictions, increased victim confidence and ultimately saved lives and prevented further victims of crime.

A victim rarely needs to be alone in giving evidence. Let’s provide the victim with confidence.

We must enable officers and staff with the right training, tools, and skills to do the job. If they are required to investigate crimes with a digital footprint, then it is reasonable that they are enabled to evidence digital data.

The work of the Operation Atlas teams within the Metropolitan Police demonstrates the power of enabling frontline officers tackling VAWG. You can find BBC coverage of the fantastic work being done here: Woman’s harasser caught using new police software - BBC News.

In the victims’ own words:

‘They should never give up on reporting it, because I’ve come a long way and that is because of the police. If it wasn’t for them. I wouldn’t be here today.’



Scott Fitzmaurice

Strategic Development Director & Product Owner, Forensic Analytics