June 11, 2021

Cell site consultant receives prestigious commendation from Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences

Cell site principal consultant Matt Tart has been awarded a prestigious commendation by the CSFS for his paper on 'Opinion Evidence in Cell Site Analysis'

CCL’s cell site analysis unit is regarded as one of Europe’s foremost specialist digital forensics teams – renowned both for its professional practice and its academic-led approach to developing and maturing a relatively nascent forensic field.

We’re delighted to announce that one of the team’s principal consultants, Matt Tart, has received a notable commendation from the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

Every year the Society presents the PW Allen Award for the most meritorious research paper published in the Society’s Journal, using the following criteria:


*   Impact of the work on forensic science

*   Novelty of the research

*   Quality of the science

For the first time in its history the Society has also chosen to award commendations to two articles shortlisted for the award – one of which was submitted by Matt on the subject of ‘Opinion Evidence in Cell Site Analysis' (which appeared in Science and Justice, Volume 60, Issue 4)

Matt will be the first to recognise the support and contributions of his colleagues but it is also a prestigious personal achievement and due recognition for some brilliant research and argument that is positively impacting the use of cell site evidence.

Matt comments:

“It’s an unexpected honour and I’m delighted, not least because it’s another opportunity to highlight critical issues in the field and how we best overcome them.

"Issues concerning forensic inference exist in all areas of Forensic Science, and Cell Site Analysis is no exception. The Case Assessment and Interpretation (CAI) Model addresses many issues and is widely used within “traditional” forensic science but does not appear to be widely known either within Cell Site Analysis or in the general field of Digital Forensics. The commended paper outlines the legislative and regulatory framework within which opinion in Cell Site Analysis is provided and addresses how the principles defined in the CAI model can be applied to Cell Site Analysis. A case example highlighting differences between a task-driven approach commonly used within Cell Site Analysis and a CAI approach to the same data is presented and explored.

"There have been a range of high-profile issues surrounding digital evidence recently. For example, the Post Office scandal included computer evidence taken at face value resulting in the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history. There is a very interesting and profoundly disturbing article h clearly outlining the real-world consequences of reliance on computer output without understanding uncertainties within the underlying processes.

"Cell Site Analysis is even less clear cut than the systems involved in the Post Office scandal, with the location of a device entirely absent from the records, thus inference is required for the Call Data Records (CDRs) to be of use. Expertise in using a tool is potentially dangerous if it is mistaken for expertise in understanding the processes by which the CDRs were generated and how to form reliable, transparent, robust and logical opinion. The paper pre-empted FSR-C-118, issued by the Forensic Science Regulator in April this year. The approach proposed in the paper is compliant with the codes, which explicitly specify Cell Site Analysis as an area to which they apply. There is potentially a lot of cell site evidence, not just that criticised in R v Calland as implication presented as fact,  but overt opinion that doesn’t comply with the codes and rules of evidence. This is not because the practitioners are “bad” people, but because they haven’t been exposed to better processes by which to form safe opinion.

"At CCL we take the quality of our processes, and the skillsets of our people, extremely seriously with a focus on validation, training and competency in all aspects of the role (and not just in how to use a vendor’s tool). The onus isn’t just on practical knowhow in using equipment (survey equipment, CDR processing tools etc.), but on building broad and deep expert telecommunications knowledge, with training in the Case Assessment and Interpretation (CAI) Model to provide safe, legally and regulatory compliant, “expert witness” opinion.”

We're here to help

Our experts are on hand to learn about your organisation and suggest the best approach to meet your needs. Contact an expert today.

Get in touch