Rape Victims To Be Asked To Hand Phones To Police Or Face Investigations Being Dropped
30 April 2019, 08:02 | Updated: 30 April 2019, 08:04
Campaigners have criticised new consent forms asking rape victims to hand over their mobile phones or risk letting their attackers go unpunished.
All 43 police forces in England and Wales are using new “digital disclosure forms” which tell victims that they must allow full access to their phone history or risk cases being dropped.
The move is part of the response to the disclosure scandal, which saw a string of rape and serious sexual assault cases collapsed after crucial evidence emerged at the last minute.
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said digital devices would only be looked at when they formed a "reasonable line of inquiry" and only "relevant" material would go before a court if it met "hard and fast" rules.
Baroness Newlove, the Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, said she had "grave concerns" about disclosure and feared victims of sexual violence were "routinely having their personal lives disproportionately investigated".
Speaking in the House of Lords, the Tory peer said she was unaware that the form existed until she was approached by a journalist - despite being the Government's victims tsar.
The Crown Prosecution Service said the new forms were introduced to achieve national consistency and did not represent a change in policy.
A CPS spokesperson said: "Mobile phone data, or social media activity, will only be considered by the police when relevant to an individual case."
The forms can be used in any criminal investigation, but it's believed they are most likely to be used in cases when the victim knows the suspect.
Victims will be able to explain to officers why they don't want their data accessed. But they are also told if they refuse permission "then it may not be possible for the investigation or prosecution to continue".
Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, hit out at the new forms saying that trawling through victim's social media only goes on to reinforce the idea they are in the dock.
“Any suggestion that rape victims must automatically hand over their phones in exchange for the support of the authorities is as unlawful as it is wrong," Baroness Chakrabarti said.