The Police Have Come To My Home And Seized My Child’s Computer – What Should I Do?
This is every parent’s nightmare. Police do not give you notice in case you or your child delete or destroy evidence. The police may arrest your child at the same time as the search and seizure but are more likely to invite your child to attend the police station voluntarily by appointment to be formally interviewed about the contents of their computer and mobile phone. It is essential that they are legally represented.
If the police seize your child’s computer it will be because they have evidence to suggest that it has been used to commit a cyber/on-line offence. They will have identified your child from the I.P. address being used by your family, which is a unique number which will identify the device being used and the geographical location. The most common on-line offences committed are harassment by messaging; possessing or sharing indecent images of children and inciting children to commit sexual acts on screen. The making and sharing of indecent images between children is sadly commonplace. Most children are not aware that it is an offence.
Further your child may be vulnerable with a learning disability or a condition like Autism. They may be on their computer all day and night. Such children can be taken advantage of on-line and on social media, especially if they have little knowledge or experience of sex education and boundaries or social interaction. Your child’s functioning age may be much lower than their actual age. Your child may have been enticed, threatened or blackmailed to share indecent images or to commit an on-line offence. The police and so called “paedophile hunters“ can pose as children on-line and sometimes entrap an inexperienced vulnerable young person, without being aware of their vulnerabilities.
Your child may have learnt to access the “dark“ web/net which contains encrypted hidden websites which store and sell illegal content.
If your child is involved in organised crime gang criminal activity they may have been using encrypted “encrochat“ in order to communicate with others involved.
Cell site evidence may be able to place your child’s phone in the location of a serious crime scene or allow the police to track a journey by the movement of the phone.
You will need Professional experts to advise you and your child on such areas, in order to challenge such evidence.
Remember you may have no idea what your child has been doing on-line as most of it will be done from behind a closed bedroom door. You may not be familiar with teenage social media sites such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Snaps from snapchat vanish after being viewed so are no longer available to provide evidence of their content. You may be shocked by what is found on your child’s computer.
What we can do for your child
- Provide a sympathetic and understanding professional solicitor to facilitate a confidential discussion with your child. Your child may not wish to discuss their case with their parents due to embarrassment, especially at this initial stage. You as parents can also be included in all discussions if your child agrees.
- Our solicitors have vast experience in cyber-crimes, sexual offences and in the representation of vulnerable young people. We can represent your child from the point of seizure, throughout police interviews and at Court. Your child will be automatically entitled to legal aid public funding because of their age. However if the investigation lasts for some considerable time whilst the equipment is examined, and you would like regular meetings and updates, you may wish to pay privately for us to be pro-active with the police and the ongoing investigation during this period.
- Instruct computer experts to independently examine your child’s devices and the hard drive along with their presence on and use of social media. This can assist in identifying how images came to be on to a computer. Your child may not have searched for them or requested them. Your child’s log in details may have been used by one of their friends or someone else. The expert can find the dates and times of on-line activity and who was the user at that time. They may be able to find and produce deleted items.
- If young people of a similar age and maturity freely exchange indecent images of each other, without any menace, the police may feel able to take no further action.
- If your child has developed an addiction to viewing pornography we can refer you and them to organisations and specialist therapists who can help them.
- A smartphone is also a computer
- Police forensic evidence does not have to be accepted as always being correct. It may be open to scrutiny and an independent expert challenge.
- Most children who are charged with on-line sex offences are not a “predator“. They are an immature child.
- Even a Youth who is cautioned or convicted of a relevant sex offence will have to register on to the Sex Offenders Register.
The best way to avoid such a situation is to install Parental Control Software on to your child’s computer.
But if the police arrive and seize your child’s computer and phone, act quickly and contact Hodge Jones & Allen Youth Crime department on 0808 271 9413 or request a call back.
Graeme Hydari Partner specialising in, representing vulnerable people, particularly those with Autism, and sexual offences. Many of the issues above apply equally to adults but this blog concentrates on young people.