Transforming Forensics’ CSE Automate Project successfully completed at the end of March, having delivered extremely promising benefits and leaving a wealth of assets and learning for all forces in England and Wales.

Project origins

CSE Automate was established at the start of the 2021/22 financial year as the first major activity aligned with the Digital Forensic Science Strategy (DFSS). It sought to bring together national programmes, forces and commercial partners in new ways to streamline ways of working and test out the use of automation in investigating crimes involving images relating to child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA).

Excellent results

Early user testing results in the project pilot hosted by Greater Manchester Police have been hugely positive. They include:

  • Cases processed 55% faster on average
  • 9.5 hours saved per case on average
  • Improved wellbeing through reduced human exposure to CSE images

While it’s still early days, this holds huge promise for potential wider rollout of automation.

A benefits calculator has been developed to enable forces to estimate the impact automation could have for them. This is available on KnowledgeHub now (see below).

Community involvement

Key to the success of CSE Automate has been community involvement. The project has worked closely and collegiately with 20 forces across three technology placements, and appointed community leads to oversee project governance. Decision-making has been community-led and the ambition and enthusiasm of all forces has driven the project forwards.

Sharing learning

A key project aim has been share learnings and feedback as far and wide as possible, so project assets and documentation are being made available to all forces via a document repository on KnowledgeHub. This is made up of over 60 items, ranging from consolidated workflows, automation tool configuration guides, to training needs assessments and is available here

On 3 March, the team also hosted a half-day virtual CSE Automate ‘Show and Tell’ event, attended by over 100 law enforcement colleagues and covering project aims, progress made, emerging benefits and learning. A recording of the session, along with videos created by two of the forces hosting pilots, Lancashire and GMP, about their experiences of the project, are available on request.

Next steps

A new, three-year delivering plan for DF is currently in development. The CSE Automate project is working closely with those involved to ensure learnings are appropriately shared.

John Beckwith, TF’s DF Capability Lead, said:

“We’re extremely proud of what we’ve delivered with forces on CSE Automate. Early results around the potential impact of automation on case processing times and staff wellbeing are exceptional and hold huge promise. But just as important has been the harder-to-measure benefits, around the exchange of knowledge and information, new relationships created between teams and forces and new, collaborative ways of working between policing and the private sector. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who involved. Together, we’ve created something which has the potential to be a genuine game changer for policing and, most importantly, to the victims of CSEA and other crimes”