Scientists at the police's electronic crime laboratory have created a computerised system to help detectives examine seized computers and other items containing microchips.

Other government agencies such as the Customs service are trialling the technology, and the scientists say there has been strong interest from other enforcement agencies around the world.

The Electronic Crime Laboratory yesterday marked its 25th anniversary by formally launching the device - known as an environment for "virtualised evidence" (EVE) - which it developed in-house.

It allows investigators to examine a seized computer or other storage devices on their own computers without putting any evidence at risk.

There are backlogs of up to two years in processing evidence, as the number of computers and other electronic storage devices overwhelmed the availability of specialists to forensically analyse them.

"I don't know of a crime committed these days that doesn't involve some type of electronic evidence," said the laboratory's national manager, Maarten Kleintjes.

"Now police can log on to EVE from anywhere on the police network and either search the contents using the customised web search facility or start the computer and use it as a suspect would have used it."