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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70719
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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The police recently arrested me and seized the vast majority

Customer Question

The police recently arrested me and seized the vast majority of the electronic equipment in my home. Apparently this is solely because I was once (dates in 2011) one of several tenants at a home where rooms were rented out by the live-in landlords, and they are (unclear) investigating current / previous crimes at that address related to illegal images of children.
I am (relatively) calm about that, since that's not my thing and therefore I'm expecting that they will eventually NFA this investigation.
Eventually.
Most of the electronic equipment in my home, both mine and my girlfriend's, was seized for analysis, which I have been advised can take months if not years.
I'm very much a techie, so they took:
an expensive gaming PC (mine, but also used daily by my girlfriend for work. Purchased in 2012)
iPad air (mine, purchased in 2014)
Samsung Galaxy S4 phone on a £35 a month contract until July 2015 (mine purchased July 2013)
Several hard disks, mostly purchased 2012 onwards (mine)
XBox 360 purchased early 2012.
laptop (girlfriend's, purchased in the last 12 months)
iPhone, on a similar contract to mine (girlfriends, purchased in the last 12 months)
Blackberry mobile phone (girfriend's work phone)
Sky+ Box. Provided by Sky about 9 months ago. Still on a contract, £50 per month ish (Ours)
Playstation 4. 7 months old. (hers)
And probably a bunch of other stuff.
We have already spent £300 on a very crap replacement computer and £40 on new PAYG phones and a bit of credit, but those contracts are ticking away regardless of whether we use devices on them.
We're also hoping to move home soon, and money is tight.
So, I guess my first question set is civil law: Are we expected to just suck up the cost of this investigation? Can we do anything now to reclaim costs? Can we do anything at the end of the investigation to reclaim costs? Can we reclaim reasonable expenses incurred in trying to return ourselves to the point we were at before the arrest? Does my girlfriend a greater chance of getting HER stuff back quickly?
Second question set is more Police and Criminal Evidence Act focused: S22 of PACE suggests that property should be returned if it is possible to make a copy. In practice, can I expect to see any of my property before the investigation is finished? Apparently I can apply to a Judicial Authority under S59 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. How do I go about doing that?
On to my bail. As I said, I'm very techie, and I work as a software engineer. One of my bail conditions is to always access the internet from behind a 'suitable' (not defined) firewall. Without going into detail, this would make it very difficult to do my job, since it involves logging on to customer networks, etc. I have informed work of this bail condition and they're already tearing their hair out over it. Perhaps my job is at risk? Can I get that condition of my bail reconsidered, or at least more sensibly defined?
Another condition of my bail is not to interact with under 18s (unless supervised by someone aware of things). My first thought was 'my pleasure!' but actually in practice that's an overly broad and vague requirement. Buying a coffee, shopping at the supermarket.. walking down the street. All are now fraught with terror for me. Also there are 17yr old employees at my work. Again, work are tearing their hair out about how exactly they execute their duty of care to both me and their <18 employees. They're not a big company and this is more than just an irritation for them. Can I get THAT condition of my bail reconsidered, or at least more sensibly defined?
And finally, there's the massive (MASSIVE) library of downloaded music, TV and films. It exists. Am I screwed on that front even though it's not the subject of the investigation? Is it a crime yet to have all of that stuff, or still a civil thing?
I would really appreciate information/advice on all of the above questions, and anything general, including linked to the offence I'm less worried about.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
On your specific points
1 Basically, yes I'm afraid. They were investigating an allegation. They were entitled to seize these goods. They would have to return them at the end but if you needed replacements in the meantime then I'm afraid there is no way of making the police liable for that.
2 You don't need to JR them. You can just apply to the Mags pursuant to the Police Property Act if they are holding anything that they do not intend to use as an exhibit or they are not investigating. Since they are investigating though, its not a good idea to do that now. The time to do that is after a charge and the list of exhibits has been produced. Thereafter if an item is not upon it, then you can bring a complaint.
3 That does seem a rather wide bail condition. You can always ask the police to reconsider and appeal to the Magistrates Court in default. Its difficult to say which way that would go. They would never get a long term order with that condition but whether short term bail conditions would be disturbed is another matter.
4 There is no realistic prospect of that I'm afraid. They are investigating indecent images of children. This is a very common condition even on long term SOPOs.
5 That depends whether its a lawful download. If it is lawful then thats perfectly fine. Its quite unlikely anything would happen even if it is unlawful given the nature of the substantive allegations.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Jo. Quick clarification on 5. Assume the worst, and assume oh.. about 6 terabytes. Is the possession and/or acquisition of that kind of thing a crime in the UK, or does the Digital Economy Act merely force ISPs to try to stop it happening?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
There are copyright breaches in that but the police are not usually keen to prosecute that and certainly not the officers that are dealing with you.