Amazon’s Alexa and smart doorbells could be used as witnesses in court cases

Amazon Alexa devices, smart doorbells and even GPS systems could be used in court trials, it has emerged.

Max Hill QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), spoke of the challenges of prosecuting crime in 2020 and said technological advancements are driving significant changes in how evidence is collected and used in the judiciary system.

He said digital devices, like Amazon's Alexa, can actively provide key evidence to pinpoint whereabouts or provide a timeline.

The device has been used as a line of enquiry in a murder case in the US.

Addressing the Westminster Policy Forum yesterday morning, he said: “As little as 15 years ago criminal investigations and subsequent prosecutions were likely to focus on the crime scene for evidence backed up by eye witness testimonies and door-to-door enquiries.

“This has been transformed by the way we now live our lives and share information online.

"The digital devices which are becoming part of the fabric of everyday life, like smart phones, social media and even things like Alexa can actively provide key evidence to pinpoint whereabouts, provide footage of an incident or a timeline.

“Alexa has already been used as a line of enquiry in a murder case the US. The opportunities and threats presented by the digital age is a constantly evolving challenge for all parts of the criminal justice system, as well as for wider society.”

The DPP gave an example of how the GPS system in a Land Rover Discovery provided instrumental evidence during a crossbow murder case earlier this year.

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Following the death, the defendant was asked about his possession of crossbows, and when the GPS system was retrieved two weeks later from his partner's burned out car was vital evidence discovered.

The Jaguar Land Rover retained information proving it was used for reconnaissance as it was traced back to the victim's driveway the number before the murder.

It also showed the car had travelled to the crime scene again the following night, remained for 12 minutes until after the victim was shot.

The system indicated the boot was opened and closed when the vehicle arrived and before it left.

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The offender was convicted and received a life sentence.

Max Hill underlined the importance of keeping up with emerging technology.

He said: "The detectives of the past could only dream of the modern opportunities to gather and deploy evidence. But these also represent unprecedented evidential challenges.

"Just as technology is changing the nature of crime, technological innovations will change investigations. Machine learning and artificial intelligence is being developed to be more effective and reliable in sifting through vast amounts of data.

"Prosecuting crime in 2020 means integrating new and old techniques to make sure digitally-driven investigations are translated into fair and effective cases. This is a fast moving landscape and we will not and must not stand still.”

The Crown Prosecution Service is investing in technology to help review large amounts of evidential data and identify personal data to help with GDPR.

It'll also provide enhanced search capabilities enabling prosecutors to easily establish elements of evidence which are most relevant.

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