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EXCLUSIVE: Police accused of deliberately deleting mobile phone evidence during criminal probes

DISCLOSURE: Police want phones from victims but can they always be trusted with the evidence? (Apple)

POLICE have been accused of deleting evidence from mobile phones or withholding it from the CPS so it cannot be disclosed on the defence during criminal trials.

Last week it emerged crime victims and witnesses, particularly in rape cases, are being made by police to sign consent forms to hand over mobile phones and social media passwords or risk cases being dropped.

Detectives already had the power to seize phone and computer evidence from suspects, but allegations some officers have manipulated such evidence have surfaced, leading to concerns over police use the material.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IPOC) announced last week it is investigating a former Charring Cross Met Police team for a string of alleged offences, including one that text "messages relevant to an investigation had been deleted."

Essex News and Investigations can reveal two other cases where convicted criminals claim mobile phone evidence, that could have aided their defence, was tampered with.

CONVICTED: Julian Wright claims hundreds of crucial texts were withheld by police (Facebook)

Julian Wright, 54, from Ilford, east London, was convicted of being concerned in the supply of cannabis and money laundering in May 2016.

Police seized an iPhone and a Sony Ericsson phone from him during the investigation, which he is convinced was triggered by a disgruntled former associate approaching police in 2014.

Cannabis was found at properties that Wright rented out, but he claims the inquiry focussed biasedly on him.

He said hundreds of messages between him and the associate, including warnings he would be raided and others about a vehicle ownership dispute, were never disclosed ahead of trial.

Police said the investigation had been prompted by third-party complaints about a cannabis smell from the Big Yellow Storage premises in Gants Hill, during the case.

The associate was at one stage considered a suspect by police but was never arrested.

Wright said: "It was really started by (name removed) who threatened they would do it. This was withheld from the jury.

"The judge said police had to disclose contents of both phones. We were given a disc, which they said contained everything, but hundreds of texts were missing from the Ericsson and more than 300 from the iPhone.

"Two days before my trial I got an alert from Apple saying someone had tried to get into my iPhone cloud, but I had changed the password, so they couldn't."

He is convinced that police were behind the attempted hack.

As a result he was able to retrieve original messages, including those that were allegedly not disclosed.

EVIDENCE: Text Wright says shows associate not independent tip off prompted the probe (Julian Wright)

In one text the former associate says: "Phoned em now ok I gone<sic> them ur details etc and rooms details at ur store ok yellow store ? U b***ard."

There are also many texts discussing ownership of the vehicle.

Wright claims he paid for the vehicle, which was registered to the associate, and as such it should have featured in a subsequent proceeds of crime hearing he faced, but all trace of messages referring to it were missing from the court bundle.

The associate was subsequently allowed to sell it, he claimed.

He plans to appeal and has complained to the Met.

A Met Police spokeswoman said: "The Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) is reviewing the complaint.

"Enquiries are ongoing. Therefore it would be inappropriate to comment."

Separately, a Mel Dawson, 53, from Durham, pleaded guilty in June 2012 to a theft by finding charge investigated by Surrey Police.

MALFEASANCE: Lawyer Nick Freeman said deletions would pervert course of justice (Nick Freeman)

After the case concluded he claims he discovered all incoming and outgoing call log data relevant to his case had been erased from the phone and omitted from a forensic report of its data disclosed by the prosecution.

His complaint to police was thrown out, but he continues to pursue it.

A Surrey Police spokesman said: "The complaint was not upheld."

Celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman, known as Mr Loophole, said: "if these allegations are true and deliberate it could amount to perverting the course of justice and malfeasance in public office charges against police."

However, he welcomed the new consent forms and said anyone handing over phone or other digital evidence should download their own copy of all the date before hand, so it could be compared to what is later disclosed by police.

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