Tuesday 2 August 2016

Unlocking And Interrogating A Locked iPhone

It was with great interest that I read recently about the FBI's fight with Apple over the unlocking of an iPhone they seized from a terrorist in the US.

The reason it sparked my interest was because I was able to unlock an iPhone which the police and Crown office had seized from me but had put in to a 'disabled' state before returning it to me.

Basically, someone, we still don't know who, in Police Scotland or the Crown office entered the wrong passcode too many times in to my iPhone which caused it to be locked locked for, well, I can't remember exactly how many 'millions' of minutes, but I do remember it equated to about 40 years or something crazy like that.

But I unlocked the iPhone.

I'll be quite frank with you here. Although I consider myself to be fairly technically minded, I'm not what you'd call a geeky computer whizz kid. So while I can assure you it wasn't easy to do, I'm also man enough to admit that it ultimately came down to, among other things, a half broken cable that only worked intermittently, an annoying glitch, and an unbelievably fortunate stroke of luck that brought them all together at the right time.

It was just one of those things - the stuff I did just merged together in a kinda perfect storm...and the iPhone unlocked.

Although I could easily do it again given the same circumstances (because I know exactly how it worked and why it worked - which is easy to know after the fact of course!), what I'm really saying to you is the Gods were smiling on me that day - I did get lucky - so don't expect to see me behind your local Apple store Genius bar any time soon!

The saga behind my iPhone and how it came to be locked is every bit as intriguing.

You see I had been a victim of a false accuser, an ex girlfriend, who was trying to squeeze money out of me, and had convinced police that they should arrest me.

They did. And they seized my iPhone which I had on me at the time. Standard procedure they say.

Anyway, at my interview, the police tried to intimidate me and goad me. They tried everything they could to make me 'fess up and admit to something I absolutely hadn't done - which if they'd bothered to investigate, they'd have known I was out of the country at the time - but I guess that's standard procedure for them too. Maybe this is just their way when they interview people - even innocent people.

One particular threat they made to me - which I assume was designed to supposedly make me 'confess' to the trumped up piece of none sense my ex girlfriend had peddled to them - was that police forensics could get in to my iPhone if they so wished.

My police interviewers kept pointing to my iPhone and told me they were going to extract all my information from it. Presumably this was supposed to make me start quacking in my boots.

How very wrong they were. Because I knew I was innocent and had done nothing wrong, so I wasn't perturbed in the least at the prospect of police forensics opening up my phone (which seemed to really annoy them).

Oh, and there was one other little thing which I knew but they didn't know at the time. You see I knew that the data (ie the text messages) contained on my iPhone would actually do just the opposite if they interrogated it - the data in my iPhone would actually prove my innocence!

Of course I couldn't tell the police any of this during the interview because I was under strict instructions from my solicitor to answer "no comment" to every question.

So I said nothing. And I was arrested and charged.

I plead not guilty (obviously), and a succession of trial dates were set in to motion by the court.

Eventually the Crown office who were prosecuting the case realised that I was completely innocent and had done nothing wrong and that the police had messed up big-time and should never have arrested me (and that I was actually the victim - my false accuser was the one who should've been arrested).

But by that time, they had invested so much time and money in mounting a case against me and taking me to trial, they felt they had to go through with it, even though they knew they were prosecuting an innocent man. That's just the way the police and Crown office work unfortunately.

The fact that I had also become a bit of a nuisance and a pain in the proverbial to them didn't help my situation either I'm sure. But hey, I talk to, and treat, everyone I speak to as an absolute equal and Procurator Fiscals are no different. However I quickly discovered they don't like you doing that - PF's see themselves as being some sort of a higher moral authority than everyone else. Members of the public are, I'm reliably informed, supposed to hold them in some sort of high esteem (whatever that's supposed to mean).

It's all none sense of course as most PF's are actually failed lawyers who know they could never 'cut it' in the outside world - that's why they opt for the lesser pay and the safety of working at the Crown office. The good pension helps too.

Although it's not entirely fair of me to tar all PF's with the same brush, it is however entirely fair to say that when you take an incompetent law graduate and put him in a position of authority in a place such as the Crown office, you get what you would expect. So it's not too difficult to imagine the type of characters I was having to deal with who call themselves procurator fiscals.

Never the less, the bottom line is they didn't like me because I refused to be subservient to them and would only communicate with them on an equal basis. Apparently you're supposed to communicate with them via a silly fabricated air of politically correct politeness that I just don't do I'm afraid.

OK, so I'll also admit that there were probably one or two occasions when I spoke down to Procurator Fiscals like they were children (I'm sorry, but that's the way the PF's were acting so I felt it completely deserving).

I know for a fact that this did not impress them or endear me to them one little bit.

So set against that background you can probably guess the way this case proceeded. The phrase 'on a hiding to nothing' is probably as good a description as any, and my God, believe me, that motley crew in the Crown office are seriously vindictive people!

Of course the Crown office are not supposed to purposely prosecute someone they know to be innocent. But face-saving and arrogance is a big part of the Crown office culture so they tend to stick like glue to decisions they take - even long after it has become obvious to everyone (including themselves) that they got it wrong.

Just think 'Glasgow bin lorry tragedy' and I don't really have to say any more - you get the idea.

Add to that an accused person who is insisting on defending himself (oh no!) and to whom they've taken a complete dislike (most of that being my own stupid fault by the way) and the stage was pretty much set for a disaster from all sides.

Procurator Fiscal Depute Calum Forsyth found himself in a very awkward position. He was under pressure (which he actually admitted) from his superiors to go to trial and prosecute this case. He had the unenviable job of having to prosecute a man he knew to be innocent - plus his superiors expected him to get a 'result'. No less would be acceptable to them.

So he did what all corrupt Procurator Fiscal do under those circumstances.

He tried to hide evidence.

He refused to hand over my iPhone to the defence because, by this time, he knew the 'evidence' on it proved my innocence.

Bet you didn't know Procurator Fiscal's did things like that eh?

You do now!

Calum Forsyth reckoned if he could just stop me getting the evidence that proved my innocence, he would be able to get a conviction. Job done.

Except it's illegal for the prosecution to hold back evidence (they call it withholding disclosure).

So I challenged Procurator Fiscal Calum Forsyth in court - without the aid of a lawyer and without me having any legal background whatsoever I might add - and I beat him. I won.

I'm sure it was very embarrassing for him to be beaten by a layman on his own turf and I suppose mildly amusing to the clerk and other lawyers milling around court that day. But at the same time the seriousness of corrupt PF Calum Forsyth's behaviour should not be trivialised.

You see, when I arrived at court that day, Forsyth approached me and told me we were going to trial today regardless of my position. He didn't ask me, he told me (such is the arrogance of the Crown office).

I knew different though.

The clerk shouted "all rise" and the Sheriff walked in.

The Sheriff asked the PF, Mr Forsyth, if he was ready to begin trial?

He affirmed - and also suggested that he felt I had caused unnecessary distractions and delays and the Crown would not tolerate any further delays. The trial must begin now.

The Sheriff then asked me if I was ready to begin trial.

But I said "No".

The sheriff asked me why?

I responded that the Procurator Fiscal, Mr Forsyth, was withholding disclosure from me - my iPhone - which I required for the preparation of my defence (a couple of key words I had lifted from article 6 of the human rights act). Sheriff's are smart, I didn't need to spell it out.

I also informed the Sheriff that I had repeatedly asked the Crown for the iPhone to be returned to me but they continually refused. I also added that the proof of my innocence in this case was contained in that phone.

The Sheriff then turned to Procurator Fiscal Calum Forsyth and asked if he would be using my iPhone as Crown production?

He answered "No".

Oh dear.

I've never seen a Sheriff so irate in my life. She banged the desk and ordered Forsyth to hand the iPhone over to me immediately.

Astonishingly he responded that he didn't know where it was. Perhaps the police had it. Maybe the Crown had. It was somewhere, but he wasn't sure where!

The Sheriff shouted at him at the top of her voice.

I'll never forget her words.


Forsyth then fumbled about for a couple of seconds and held up a piece of paper saying "I've got a [police] receipt with a reference number for the phone on it"?


Now it would be great if the story could finish there with the phone being returned to me, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But it doesn't.

It get's worse.

You see the Crown were well aware that the contents of that iPhone would prove my innocence - after all that's why they went to such lengths to prevent me getting it. So when faced with a Sheriff ORDERING them to give it to me, there was only one option left for the Crown if they wanted to win this case.

Wipe the phone clean to erase all traces of the evidence on it before handing it back.

The result was that the Procurator Fiscal agreed to give the phone back to me, and I was instructed to go to Bellshill police station to pick it up, which I did.

But when I switched it on, it wouldn't allow me access - my iPhone had been disabled.

Turns out they had entered a succession of wrong passwords and caused the phone to lock up (which they knew would happen). The screen message said it was disabled and couldn't be opened for so many million minutes, which equated to about 40 years!

So this iPhone - which I'd fought so hard in court to get and which contained all the evidence that would prove my innocence - was now what's commonly know as a 'brick'. In other words, it was now completely useless.

Oh how they must have been rejoicing in the Crown office that day.

My heart sank. In fact it was worse than that. I genuinely felt almost suicidal - you know that way when your thoughts go to a very dark place and you find yourself having to talk yourself out of the idea. Horrible. It's as if my world had collapsed. Those people in the police and the Crown office will never know how I felt that day. They will never know what they did to me that day. Never.

I was distraught.

So distraught in fact that through my desperation I really wasn't thinking quite as straight as normal and made a couple of errors while trying to find a way to access the phone.

Those errors, combined with the things I did manage to do right (plus a stroke of luck) unlocked the iPhone!

And now the rest, as they say, is history.

My case went to trial and was thrown out of court (no case to answer) with Sheriff Douglas Brown commenting "Mr Campbell should never have been brought before a criminal court".

But my false accuser was never arrested or prosecuted.

The police who lied were never arrested or prosecuted.

The Procurator Fiscals who lied were never arrested or prosecuted.

The person or persons who disabled my iPhone were never found or arrested or prosecuted.

But on the plus side, I never ever told the police or the Crown office how I managed to unlock the iPhone - and I never will. Mark my words, they'll need me before I'll need them, I can assure you of that (and if and when they do need me, I may just politely remind them of what they did to me and show them the door).

Mind you, I could be persuaded, because the FBI are reported to have recently paid someone a figure somewhere in the region of $1 Million to unlock an iPhone for them!

Of course there's no guarantee that my unlock sequence would have worked on the FBI's iPhone anyway, but I have to say, for $1 Million I think I'd have happily done a deal with them on a 'no win no fee' basis and had a go at it just the same!

There's one final, and rather sinister side to this story before I end it.

You see, when two people text message each other - as my ex girlfriend and I did - there actually exists TWO sets of text messages. There's a set of text messages on each persons phone.

So the Crown office already had a duplicate set of all the same text messages which they had extracted from my ex girlfriends phone (which is why they knew the text messages on my phone would prove my innocence).

At the actual trial, the Crown tried to persuade the Sheriff that the prosecutions set of text messages should be used by the court for reference in the trial - which just happened to be a VERY abridged version of the messages with months of texts deleted and missing and many others 'cherry picked' to suit the prosecutions case. Honest to God, I'm not making this up!

Fortunately the Sheriff was having none of it.

My solicitor, who just happened to be an ex Procurator Fiscal and knew every dirty trick in the book the Crown were attempting to pull, stood up and requested that the Sheriff use the set of text messages from my iPhone - which was the full record of texts which showed the complete story of exactly what happened, what was really said, every single communication between my false accuser and I - all 360 of them.

And now... as they say....the rest is history.

An innocent man walked free from court that day but the Crown were not happy about it.

The Sheriff even shook his head in disbelief as Procurator Fiscal Calum Forsyth insisted he should be allowed to wheel in another two witnesses despite the case being clearly over and lost (two prosecution witnesses who's testimonies I should also mention ended up helping me, the defence even more)!

Astonishingly, he begged at the Sheriff, saying that he hadn't had time during the lunch break to write up a motion so asked if he could just bring in the next two witnesses as it would only take up a similar amount of time. Talk about clutching at straws!

Procurator Fiscal Calum Forsyth embarrassed himself in court that day.

He also embarrassed and disgraced himself completely throughout this whole sordid mess.

I'd be surprised if he's even still a Procurator Fiscal these days.

Calum Forsyth was fuming at the end of my trial. Fuming that he had failed to get a conviction against, what he saw as, an insolent upstart who was a constant thorn in his side, showed him little or no respect, and refused to know his place (which was firmly beneath a PF in his eyes).

An honest Procurator Fiscal, a man of substance, a man of integrity, would have been happy that an innocent man had been saved from prosecution.

But then again, an honest Procurator Fiscal, a man of substance and integrity, would never ever have tried to prosecute an innocent man in the first place or tried to hide vital evidence that he knew would prove his innocence.

The problem today is that there are far too many Calum Forsyth's in the Crown office and not enough Fiscals with honesty, substance, integrity and most of all, honour.

The problem tomorrow is that many of these Procurator Fiscals may end up being appointed as Sheriffs and Judges.

And that should be a serious, serious concern to us all.