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Instructing a Digital Forensic Expert in the Family Courts

Instructing a Digital Forensic Expert in the Family Courts

Instructing a Digital Forensic Expert in the Family Courts - a guide for solicitors and barristers, by Ross Donnelly, Computer Expert at Keith Borer Consultants

Digital forensic experts are regularly instructed in family cases as single joint experts. Generally, instructions can be divided into three categories:

1. Presentation - "Can you extract and present the following content from device X/account Y?" This could mean looking specifically at text messages, activity logs on Facebook or internet browsing history, for example. Well presented, easily accessible evidence makes life easier for everyone participating in a case conference or courtroom setting.

2. Verification – "It is alleged Event Z occurred, is there anything to support or refute this on the devices?" We may be asked to look at internet usage and cached images. Deleted digital evidence can sometimes be recovered and pieced together, even though the user thinks it is gone for good.

3. Investigation - "Can you tell us what happened on the device in the time period of interest?" For example, we can look at whether or not a digital device was active and which user was logged into a particular social media site or browser. Looking at what activity took place immediately before or after a particular time may be useful, too.

Instructing an Expert

What are the benefits of instructing KBC?

We accept work at Legal Aid rates and are experienced at splitting the bill between responsible parties, reducing your administrative burden.

Our experts are experienced at giving evidence, including in the family courts, so you can be confident you are getting the best experts.

Our statements are fully compliant with Family Procedure Rules.

We can assist with cross-over into other areas of forensic science, for example toxicology or handwriting, when required, as KBC employs a full range of experts.

Key points to remember

When instructing experts in family matters:

1. Engage early! Expert work can be complex and take time. Whilst we will always try to assist in tight timescales, engaging with your expert early in the process ensures the Court's expectations can be met.

2. Expect problems! Security controls on online accounts are constantly changing and can complicate the extraction of the relevant material. It's often the case that the account owner will need to provide assistance to bypass the security controls (for example, answering security questions or providing authorisation codes sent to their mobile). We are more than happy to contact the account owner directly for these arrangements, but it is important that they know this may be required from the offset.

3. Be specific! There is an overwhelming wealth of data available on devices and online accounts. Being specific in your instructions allows your expert to home in on the most relevant material and understand what may or may not be pertinent to the case. In cases with multiple parties represented, it might be difficult to agree a set of instructions. KBC offers free pre-instruction advice so that you know exactly what may or may not be possible, but this is more problematic when there are multiple parties. KBC is happy to accept instructions to attend Court in an advisory capacity, so that all parties can be appropriately advised, and hopefully ease the process of agreeing instructions.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss your case, you can speak directly to the Digital team at our Durham office on 0191 3324999.

Ross Donnelly BSc (Hons), CFCE, Digital Team Leader

 

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