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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71130
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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How long are the police allowed to confiscate personal items

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How long are the police allowed to confiscate personal items (laptops, phones etc) while they carry out an investigation related to a suspected Internet Offence they believe took place on my IP address? It's been 18 months so far and they still claim that they are investigating.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
-Could you explain your situation a little more?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Jo,

My house was raided by the police whilst I was at work, and I came home to find about ten crime investigation officers going through all my personal belongings. I was then told that the police were alerted by The NCA's CEOP (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) that my IP address was used in the middle of the night a few weeks prior, to download and or distribute child abuse images.

I was then questioned by an officer whilst the raid was taking place around me as to what I knew about the incident, what I was doing on that date and time, etc. The raid lasted around six hours while two forensic investigators scanned every single laptop, CD, DVD, and even old floppy disks to find evidence.

Needless to say, once they had finished they found no evidence of child abuse images and then claimed that they had to take a couple of my laptops and my mobile phones away for further investigation. I was not arrested.

I have been phoning the police monthly to find out what progress there is on the investigation, however they say it's still ongoing and that there is a backlog at the forensic laboratory and that my case is not a high priority.

It's now 18 months later, and there is still not sign of any progress. Since my laptops and phones were confiscated I have had to spend around £2000 to get replacements in the mean time as I need a computer and phone for my work which was quite an inconvenience. The laptops and phones they had confiscated were worth a lot more, probably around £4000 in total, and they have probably depreciated in value by at least 30% by now which is infuriating.

What should I do now? Is there a time limit as to how long they can keep confiscated items for? When the investigation is over (obviously presuming that there is no evidence of child abuse) do you think I be able to sue the police for the loss of money, the inconvenience, and the traumatic experience I had to go through? Also, I have no previous convictions.

I am sorry but it is bad news.
You were not arrested for any number of reasons. However, they are still investigating you and they are entitled to seize anything for that purpose.
It is not going to be given priority for a number of reasons. There is huge pressure on the forensic lab at the moment. You are not going to get priority because you are not remanded in custody and apparently not on bail. That is why they are taking as long as they like. They used to keep people on bail but have been severely criticised. The way they will get around it is just not bail people.
I'm afraid you have no claim at all against the police for anything. They are acting upon information. They only need the barest suspicion to do so. In any event, inconvenience and distress is not a head of loss in the UK.
I'm very sorry but I can only give you truthful information.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo C. and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks Jo,

Do you have any idea how long I could be waiting? It seems quite daunting to think that I may have this issue looming over me for many more years to come.

It has affected my quality of life too, for the first few months after the raid, I had to start taking anti-anxiety tablets because I couldn't sleep well at night and even to this day it makes me anxious occasionally, just because it seemed like such a serious thing and I haven't been in trouble with the police before.

I feel like there must be a way to get some sort of compensation after this is over. We all only get one life to live, and I never expected I would have to worry about something like this for any part of mine.

I am afraid it is not particularly quick.
I have had clients on bail for over two years.
They have been criticised for doing that but I suspect what they are doing now is not bailing people which improves their statistics but has a similar effect upon the investigated person.