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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 69359
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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Can ANYONE help me PLEASE!!!!? I recently had a magistrates

Customer Question

Can ANYONE help me PLEASE!!!!?
I recently had a magistrates court order the destruction of my computer hard drive (and more importantly a portable usb backup drive with ALL family photos, videos, music, software & documents on it) due to the police suspecting an illegal image on them somewhere. After the police seized my computer (2 years ago!) and questioned me there was no further action taken in the end and I got my stuff back minus the hard drives. However, the police said they can't give me back my drives because they 'think' the image is on there somewhere but they can't find it due to the drive being encrypted. I wrote back and demanded they returned my drives as all the family memories on the one drive is so precious to me and my family. They then wrote back saying it was going to court and their costs to date was £1,500. Obviously I thought they were just trying to scare me off but last week they actually convinced the judges in court to my utter shock and dismay that my drives can't be returned. I wish I could have had some legal help in the court but I couldn't afford it.
Now I face losing all my family memories, and to really kick a man when he's down, they are now asking me to pay all their court costs on top of that!!
I really don't know what I can do now as I don't have lots of money to hire a brilliant lawyer. Has anyone any ideas please? Thank you.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: UK Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

What would you like to know about this? Are you asking if they can do this? If so, I will need to know the legislation relied upon?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I'm not sure what you mean. (I'm obviously no legal expert!)
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
All I want is to be able to keep all the personal stuff on the portable drive (which was a large backup usb drive). The police legal chap successfully convinced the court that it's not feasible to go through the mountain of files in order to retrieve what I need what as it's impracticable and would take too much time. I said I would be willing for any 3rd party to do it or even do it myself at a supervised location if possible.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I don't know if it would've helped to mention at the time (which I forgot to do, as I was very flustered) that they had actually already given me back one other usb drive and that contained an encrypted backup file on it. So they could've already handed me back illegal material which is the very reason they're trying to destroy the content of the 2nd usb drive for!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Oh and none of the drives are encrypted as the police legal chap told the judges. It was a total lie! If I could've hired my own computer expert, they could examine them and argue that the police are not telling the truth. There was encrypted backup files on there with personal documents in, but that's all.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

Which legislation did the letter refer to?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It says the 3 hard drives are to be forfeited under the Protection of Children Act 1978.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

Ok. Does it quote a section?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No. It says exactly what I put in my previous reply.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

They do have the right to make an application for forfeiture under S5 here

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1978/37/section/5

and the only test is whether or not they appear to be indecent images.

Had you consented they would not have needed to go to court and costs would not have been an issue but we can't turn back time.

The question, of course, is not the indecent images but the innocent ones. You do have the right to make representations under S5[5] that those pictures should not be destroyed but it would appear you didn't attend which is a problem.

You can always appeal to the Crown Court but you need to be aware that will rack up costs if you lose.

They are not going to let you or a third party handle evidence of this nature I'm afraid. When expressed like that you can probably see the risks. You need to convince a court that this can be done without unreasonable expense.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Jo

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I think you misunderstood me...Yes I know they can do it because they already have!After initial investigation (which started 2 years ago!!) there was no further action. I got all my computer equipment and mobile phones back, however, they said they couldn't give me back the 3 drives they removed to which I responded with a letter demanding them back as there was no further action taken because the drives don't contain illegal material. It was then that they wrote back saying they were taking it to court to get permission and if I wanted to contest it I was to go to the court hearing. I did attend this hearing last week but because I couldn't afford any solicitor I went in there on my own. I was convinced they were just trying to scare me off and also a judge would see that all I require is all my legitimate files, that's all. But the police legal chap run rings around me in there and convinced the judges to destroy everything!! Surely this is wrong. Isn't it against my human rights or something? Innocent until proven guilty etc. I simply cannot believe this is actually happening to me.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

Whether there is an investigation is a non issue. They can still forfeit unlawful images.

Had you posted earlier I would have told you to consent to avoid costs as this was the only order they were going to make I'm afraid.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
But they didn't find any unlawful images. That's my point. Surely, they must give me back all my legitimate content? And like I said earlier, they gave me back another portable usb drive. This had encrypted files on it! And this was their argument, that they 'think' an image is on one of the drives and can't separate it, so all of it must go...but what about the drive they already handed back!!?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

I think I covered the issue of legitimate content above?

They only have to satisfy the court that the images are unlawful under S5[2]. They can do that in other ways than actually producing the image.

The fact that they handed back a different drive doesn't mean this one is not of interest. It might mean they shouldn't have handed back that one or there might be a distinction to be drawn between them. We don't know on what basis this was put

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Sorry. I thought some part of your last message was missing.
I'm still none the wiser with regards ***** ***** original question!
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

I don't think I can really add very muh I'm afraid.

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