Hundreds of rape cases are being delayed by months because of a backlog in digital processing.

The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee heard that the issue is a major challenge for the Metropolitan Police, with delays of six to nine months.

The backlog is in cases where full downloads of material from phones and other devices are needed, or deleted messages need retrieving.

Committee member Caroline Pidgeon said that in Lambeth and Southwark there are 180 live rape cases, and 140 of those are facing delays, most of which are waiting for information from the forensic labs.

The scale of the challenge around digital evidence both in rape investigations and in other cases is such that this is a constant challenge for us. I'm not going to pretend that this is not a major challenge for us.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons, Head of Frontline Policing

Caroline Pidgeon told London Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden:

You have got people who have been raped waiting six to nine months to decide whether they've got enough evidence to take this to court. People's lives almost on hold.

Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem

Sophie Linden said she has been in discussions to increase funding, and that there is "massive pressure" on forensic teams working for the Met, for reasons including the huge investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

Nearly 5,000 sexual offences and 3,200 rapes have been reported to the Met so far this year according to the London Assembly. Reported sexual offences have risen 80% since 2011, and rapes by 140%.