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    Ignorance No Excuse: UK Police Conducted Wrongful Raids Due to Typos, Mistakes

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    The report was meant to be published last year.

    Bumbling British cops repeatedly made wrongful arrests due to typos during 2017, the heavily-delayed Investigatory Powers Commissioner's annual report reveals.

    The document outlines 18 "error investigations" the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office (IPCO) conducted into the misuse of surveillance powers by UK government agencies, including wrongful arrests and law enforcement raids due to data mixups — such as erroneous information relating to dates, times and IP addresses — and even mispellings in filed warrants.

    Wrong Number

    A number of anonymized case studies of these phenomena are offered — tech magazine The Register has indicated one relates to Nigel Lang, an innocent man from Sheffield who, due to police mistakenly adding an extra digit to his IP address, was wrongfully arrested along with his wife on suspicion of possessing and distributing indecent images of children in July 2011.

    He would spend years on bail, all the while subject to extremely strict conditions, barring him from living at his home or having unsupervised contact with his son, before authorities admitted their mistake. He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder — but despite the duration and intensity of his ordeal, which he describes "the most horrendous and horrific time" of his life, Lang was awarded a mere US$78,500 (£60,000) in compensation by police.

    While Lang's case is perhaps the most egregious documented in the report, such errors appear relatively commonplace, with other case studies indicating the IP addresses of individuals accused of accessing child pornography were repeatedly connected to incorrect home addresses.

    On occasion, this was due to technical error rather than human failure — for instance, a family home was raises three times in six months by police, who believed a paedophile sharing child abuse images lived at their residence. All computers, phones and tablets seized in the process — and the family's children were taken into care as a "safeguarding protocol". It was only when officers reviewed the home's router discovered "an anomaly" in the IP address assigned to the property, and realized their mistake.  

    In another case, an ISP changed its timestamps from the 24-hour to 12-hour clock without informing authorities, or including an AM or PM designation in reports. 

    'Serious Error Investigation' Case Studies in the IPCO Report
    'Serious Error Investigation' Case Studies in the IPCO Report

    In another, an innocent individual's home was raided by police — in the mean time, a wanted suspect (identified as an "EU national") fled the country. However, despite the litany of grievous errors documented in the report, there's no indication any individual or agency was held to account for any failing at any time.

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    Tags:
    police crimes, arrest warrant, Police Misconduct, arrest, IPCO, Metropolitan Police, United Kingdom
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