Metropolitan Police have conducted a legal ‘mugging', to get hold of a phone which was unlocked, so to avoid a legal and technological battle of having to get the phone unlocked and get hold of the data on it.
The phone in question is owned by Gabriel Yew, who was being investigated by Operation Falcon, part of Scotland Yard's team running investigations into major fraud and related crimes organised online.
Yew was accused of manufacturing fake credit cards, which were being used to buy luxury goods in the UK and Europe.
During their investigation, Operation Falcon had surmised that as Yew conducts his operation using an Apple iPhone, it would contain crucial evidence for the investigation.
However as it was discussed during the FBI vs Apple case earlier in the year, it would be unobtainable if the device was locked with a passcode. Legally he could refuse to unlock the phone, and as a result, they would never see incriminating evidence which the phone had. Likewise there is no legal basis for forcing a suspect to use their thumb to unlock the phone either.
The get around this, officers arrested Yew on the street while on a phone call, which meant they had the open phone. During the arrest, one officer grabbed the phone from Yew's hand, much like a regular mugging. The officer in question then proceeded to continually click on various parts of the screen to prevent it from locking before the police had downloaded the phone's data.
In a statement, the Met Police said: “When detectives examined Yew's mobile phones they found conversations with details of orders being placed for fake cards. Officers found details of other individuals who contacted Yew to obtain fake bank cards and three men - Lamar Brown, Kofi Gyateng and Christopher Tansey - were identified and questioned in August. When he was arrested, Tansey was found in possession of several false ID documents with his photo and bank cards in other names.”
Detective chief inspector Andy Gould, from Falcon, said: "Gabriel Yew supplied fake credit cards in bulk for criminals all over London. The excellent and painstaking detective work of the Metropolitan Police's Falcon Taskforce identified Yew and his card factory then gathered sufficient high quality evidence to convict these defendants at court.”
Yew pleaded guilty to various offences and was sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court on Wednesday, 30 November to five years and six months in prison.