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Jail for destroying mobile phones containing evidence

Editorial Staff
Computer crime
Case Summary: 

54 year old Richard Kingston was convicted of destroying evidence in a case investigated by the UK's Serious Fraud Office. Kingston was under investigation in connection with offences relating to suspected bribery.

Case Facts: 

Kingston's employer, Sweett Group, PLC, has been convicted of offences under the Bribery Act.

Kingston was the company's managing director in the Middle East where the company had a number of construction contracts.

In December 2016, Kingston was convicted of "concealing, destroying or otherwise disposing of two mobile telephones, knowing or suspecting that the data stored on those phones would be relevant" in the SFO's investigations.

Case Judgment: 

On conviction under section 2(16) of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 (destruction of evidence), Kingston was sentenced to 12 months' jail on each of two offences, to run concurrently.

Case Commentary: 

The case is extremely interesting because it treats the mobile phones as repositories of information which may be material and therefore must be preserved.

The data destroyed was in WhatsApp, SMS and other messages. Now the WhatsApp is encrypted and the company (owned by Facebook) says that even though it can restore data to phones, it cannot read that data. It is therefore essential that devices are maintained.

Equally, it demonstrates that mobile phone records, especially for business related purposes, should be treated in the same way as paper documents in a file. Therefore deleting messages (unless they have been previously backed up) would, on the face of it, constitute the offence in the same way as disposing of paper records.




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