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UK police forces to ask rape victims to hand in mobile phones for investigation

Concerns have been raised by victims groups about new consent forms.

Image: Shutterstock

VICTIMS GROUPS IN the UK have raised concerns about new consent forms that will ask alleged rape victims to hand their phones in to police as part of investigations.

The forms are being rolled out across England and Wales and BBC News reports that the move has come about after a number of rape and serious sexual assault cases collapsed after crucial evidence emerged.

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said the devices would only be looked at where it forms a “reasonable line of enquiry” and that any material used would only go to court subject to stringent rules.

The Guardian reports that Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave says in a briefing document that alleged victims could be told they can refuse consent to hand up their phone but that it could affect the potential for prosecution if they do so..

Complainants “have the opportunity to say I don’t wish that to happen but we also have to make it clear that if that’s the position then it may not be possible for the case to proceed”, Ephgrave said, according to The Guardian.

Victims groups have however said that the move could lead to fewer victims reporting rape and sexual assault.

Rape survivor, author and activist Winnie M Li told Sky News that it would involve victims having their privacy further breached.

All of the information you’re going to be able to acquire from a victim’s phone, that’s still not going to be evidence about whether or not a rape was committed. And yet at the same time, it may provide curtain messages or information about her character that the defence can then use against her.

Li said that the criminal justice process can leave victims feeling victimised again and that this is a move in the wrong direction.

“You’re requiring rape victims, who have already been through a lot, to give up a huge amount of privacy, they already give up a lot and feel like they’re violated in certain ways. So for this to be required of them further, for them to give up their phones and their means of communication, their link to the support of friends and family is even a further violation of their rights.”

In Ireland, it is common for gardaí to seek evidence from the phone of both the complainant and the accused. 

A spokesperson for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says victims are often accompanied by one of their representatives when victims are providing details from their phones to gardai.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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