POLICE are struggling to cope with a flood of evidence from mobile phones and computers.

That is the warning from chief police officers after it was revealed that some criminal cases had collapsed over delays in processing digital information.

James Vaughan, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for the forensic marketplace, has said the police urgently need a more capable workforce to sift digital evidence.

BBC Radio’s File on 4 found no police force had the accreditations needed to handle all aspects of digital evidence such as social media, text messages and chat apps.

Bournemouth company X-Net II provides digital skills to national security agencies and police forces. Its staff of around 10 include ex-military and police officers.

Director Gordon Fong said it was working with agencies that were under financial constraints and had to develop new digital capabilities.

“Many police officers are not equipped with those skills,” he said.

“There was a case where they didn’t look at a phone for six months. Then, after two years, because they weren’t able to offer up the data, the case was dropped.

“It’s impacted cases at the trial stage.

“They’re dealing with huge amounts of data. There was one case where it took two years to go through 32,000 Facebook posts.”

A police failure to analyse digital evidence in time was a factor in abandoning 19 rape and sexual offence cases earlier this year.

The independent national forensic service that was available to the police closed six years ago. The BBC found many forces were now working without the accreditation that became a legal requirement last October.

Dr Gillian Tully, the official forensic science regulator, said some forces would be better to outsource work to the private sector rather than do it without proper accreditation.

Last month, a select committee of MPs heard evidence that officers were under-trained and were destroying vital evidence.

DR Jan Collie of Discovery Forensics told the committee: “One of the problems is the sheer amount of digital evidence the police have to look at… There is evidence everywhere. With cuts in funding, officers don’t have the time to do all that.”

She added: “When they have the people, they haven’t got the money to send them on courses.”

The Home Office has said it is making an extra £6.7million available to forensics operations, which it says are faster, more reliable and under greater scrutiny than ever before.