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Printing remains key to safeguarding crucial evidence

7th September 2017

Criminal evidence forms a crucial part of the justice process, ensuring accounts of events remain as accurate as possible and that ultimately, unlawful individuals receive the most appropriate sentence. 

While technology such as more sophisticated DNA testing, improved CCTV and bespoke police databases are now in place to speed up information sharing, it is important to remember that traditional practices remain crucial to police forces across the globe.

For example, it is highly unlikely that we will ever see a fully paperless law enforcement process due to the many external factors that could potentially scupper a conviction. At a crime scene for example, it is still mandatory for forensic experts to package every single item of evidence individually and clearly mark using printed-on or to be filled labels.

Printing solutions such as our Ap1310 mini printer are wireless and require no ink, meaning they can be used in all weather conditions. They can also utilise hi-spec paper, ensuring the label remains legible for decades into the future – certainly as long as the evidence would ever need to be referred to.

Mislabelling, or misplacing a piece of evidence could potentially jeopardise a prosecution and while most forces now also store information about evidence electronically, it is susceptible to electronic failure, potential hacking and human error during the data input process. It’s therefore essential that reports are printed and stored efficiently should such a breach occur.

While digitising processes predominantly lead to increased efficiencies and other cost savings, there is no doubt that a blanket approach to digitisation is flawed. The recent high-profile ransomware hacking of the NHS did not compromise any sensitive data, but the episode caused major expense, disruption and delays to procedures. A similar effort to target law enforcement agencies could prove extremely detrimental if backup evidence is not stored in hard copy.

Even once sentencing has been completed, printed documentation continues to play an important role. For minor incidents, offenders are typically given an on-the-spot notice and fine, or are served a printed notice of prosecution delivered to their postal address. This ensures the correct recipient receives the notice and avoids the risk of electronic correspondence being lost, which could lead to further admin costs and a failure to serve.

We have already seen a major UK police force this year equip its cohort of officers with 3,000 handheld printers. Aside from the ease of generating instant penalty notices, the devices are lighter than the books and paper forms they previously had to carry and can print documents with greater speed and accuracy.

Technology should be utilised whenever possible to reduce admin time for staff, and reduce the paperwork of law enforcement professionals, which has been well reported as being higher than ever before. However, it’s crucial that all measures are in place to safeguard evidence as more sophisticated data hacks threaten cyber security systems across the globe.