National newspapers have recently run a story to the effect that the police are routinely seizing mobile phones belonging to all drivers involved in an accident.
You may be relieved to know that this is guidance given to the police but it is not policy. There is a basis to the story which is worth noting; the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) does give the police the power to seize items which they have reasonable grounds to suspect will provide evidence of an offence; there would therefore be no need for a change in the law. The difficulty would be in the examination of the phones. Even 3 years ago the police seizing a phone in a harassment case or where it was used to film an assault would send it off to the police forensic experts to analyse, and the suspect would be bailed potentially for months. Now most custody offices have a device, and a suitably trained officer to download pictures, texts etc. the same day.
The difficulty with phone evidence for traffic cases is that more information may be needed, for example, whether the phone had just been turned on, whether a number was being keyed in, whether a text was being typed or, indeed, whether images were being viewed. This sort of information still requires expert analysis and takes time and the labs simply couldn’t handle the volume.
The police will still seize phones, as has been their policy for some time, when a vehicle is involved in an accident that is, or the police believe may go on to be fatal. Unfortunately the fatality could be you, and instead of reporting you for the offence the officer may be reporting the facts to the coroner. If you must use your phone when driving, buy a cradle, they are much cheaper than a ticket! If the police are mistaken we are happy to defend you in the magistrates’ court with the same expert evidence. If you are the subject of a coroner’s court hearing then there is little I or anyone else can do as you will have followed numerous others who have died as a result of the casual use of a phone at the wheel.