Controversial UK Policy Will Allow The Police To Access Rape and Sexual Assault Victims' Phones
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Controversial UK Policy Will Allow The Police To Access Rape and Sexual Assault Victims’ Phones

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A new police policy has recently made the headlines in the United Kingdom which states that rape victims will be asked to allow the Police to have access to their smartphones.

Forms that consent to access to messages, emails and photos are currently being supplied to Police forces in both England and Wales.

These consent forms can make an appearance in any type of criminal investigation but will prove more useful in rape and sexual assault cases where the victim happens to know the suspect. In that case, their communication could prove to be crucial evidence for either the victim or the accused.

The forms also state that, if the victims do not want to allow the Police to access their data, they will be given a chance to explain why. Unfortunately, if they refuse to grant law enforcement access to their smartphones “then it may not be possible for the investigation or prosecution to continue“.

This new policy didn’t just drop from the sky – on the contrary, it stands on the basis of a number of rape and sexual assault cases that have been dropped, following evidence found on the alleged victims’ phone.

One of the defendants affected was student Liam Allan, 22 at the time, who had charges dropped when critical material emerged while he was on trial” the BBC reportsThe case against Mr Allan at Croydon Crown Court was dropped after three days when the evidence on a computer disk containing 40,000 messages revealed the alleged victim had pestered him for “casual sex”

However, an anonymous woman told the BBC that, after she had been raped in 2016 by someone she knew and handed the Police everything they needed for the investigation to continue, the investigation still fell through.

The police said they wanted to extract data from my phone. I was required to hand in my phone and it was only returned to me after repeated requests after two years.” she says “When I got my phone back, I saw that it had not even been turned on in two years. I might lodge a complaint at some point, but I just felt everything was so invasive at the time. They didn’t even take the phone off the perpetrator. I gave his name and address. He’s not had to face any consequences.”

Critics of this policy have been very vocal about the issue as soon as it hit social media, with some stating that this policy could further deter the victims from coming forward with their experiences and Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties charity said that the victims should not have to “choose between their privacy and justice”.

treating rape victims like suspects in this way delays investigations and trials, prolongs distress for both victims and suspects, deters victims from reporting and obstructs justice. Urgent reform is needed so victims no longer have to sacrifice their private lives to bring criminals to justice.

Big Brother Watch

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice said that, while most of the victims understood why it would be necessary for them to disclose all communication with their attacker, they did not understand why their past sexual history would be relevant to the investigation.

Wistrich added that everyone seems to “be going back to the bad old days when victims of rape are being treated as suspects.”

The government was adamant in stating that demanding this sort of access will only happen when necessary, especially when the accounts of the events leading up to the alleged attack are different.

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said that the material that will be presented in front of the court will only be brought to light if it meets ‘stringent rules’.

For now, the policy is not being applied in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

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