DORSET Police has a backlog of more than 100 digital devices waiting to be examined by investigators, new figures reveal.

The Police Federation of England and Wales said officers are "overwhelmed" by the amount of digital evidence they are faced with, warning that mounting workloads are a result of forces struggling to attract new detectives.

Data provided to the Press Association news agency through a freedom of information request showed a total of 132 devices were awaiting examination by Dorset investigators.

Across England and Wales, a total of 12,122 devices were awaiting examination.

The figures, covering 32 police forces, were obtained by PA in February and March.

Although there is no local breakdown of what devices are being held, the most common items nationally include computers, tablets and phones.

These can be used to check messages, photographs, emails or social media accounts as part of an investigation.

Detective Chief Superintendent Ben Hargreaves, of Dorset Police, said: “We recognise there are delays in extracting evidence from digital devices in Dorset and this is a problem that police forces are facing nationally.

“However, we would like to offer some reassurance that we have systems in place to assess the risk and prioritise the work in order that we best protect the public.

“The widespread use of smart phones and other electronic devices has meant that there is an ever increasing need to extract digital evidence to support investigations.

“Both locally and nationally we are seeking to increase our capacity to undertake digital examinations, not only to ensure we respond to existing demand in a timely manner, but to predict and be proactive in responding to future demand arising from new technologies.”

Dorset Police is part of the South West Forensics Partnership with Avon & Somerset, Devon & Cornwall and Wiltshire.

Head of Digital Forensics for the partnership Steve Slater said: “We have just completed a Business Improvement Plan, which increases our digital forensics capacity by 55 per cent to accommodate increasing demands in digital services.

“Despite the current situation the country is facing with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the SW Forensics Partnership has completed its recruitment phase and new staff are joining the teams this month.

“When fully trained, these staff will be help increase the capacity of the partnership, which also has close links to external suppliers where it can send work to complement its capacity.

“The demand for digital forensics is an issue all forces are facing nationally and the backlog of cases in the South West region is lower than most other regions.

“It is hoped that with the increasing workforce, specialist capacity and assistance of external suppliers, the partnership will be able to reduce its outstanding workload and turnaround times further throughout the coming months.”