Police trawls of rape victims’ private data being investigated

Examination techniques deployed by police and lawyers to trawl through rape victims’ cell phones and data on the lookout for evidence are to be investigated by using a watchdog.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced an inquiry into whether privacy or data protection regulations are going to be routinely breached in the criminal justice system.

The investigation follows concerns raised by way of the campaign group Older brother Watch together with other groups about the way private materials are collected, analysed and disclosed to detectives, prosecutors and defence lawyers.

“Victims of serious sexual offence crimes are particularly vulnerable and it’s crucial that this rights they’ve already in law are upheld in order to maintain confidence within the UK’s criminal justice system and their continued willingness in the future forward and report crimes,” James Dipple-Johnstone, the deputy commissioner for operations with the ICO, said because announced your research.

There happen to be multiple complaints from victims and support organisations alleging “excessive usage of victims’ information that is personal in cases of rape and high sexual assault”. Significant is a Stafford statement, the consent form victims are instructed to sign giving police admission to their personal information. Material subsequently disclosed may incorporate highly sensitive records like medical, education, psychiatric, social service and family court reports.

“These statements are sometimes signed in the immediate aftermath and shock with the crime, and, we’re told, victims is frequently unclear by what there’re consenting to and why,” Dipple-Johnstone said.

The ICO stated it would track victims’ information through the criminal justice system “to identify places where victims’ information and facts is most vulnerable or where processing could be excessive and disproportionate”.

Disputes over late disclosure by police of crucial evidence in rape and sex offences generated a lot of cases collapsing this season.

The quantity of digital data generated by even routine cases is causing severe problems for the criminal justice system. Defence barristers complain potentially they are not being paid adequately with many pages of digital printouts while detectives are overwhelmed by the volume of information.

Establishing what exactly materials are tightly related to any rape or sexual assault prosecutions is often the subject of legal dispute.

Griff Ferris, the legal and policy officer at Older brother Watch, said: “We welcome the information commissioner’s announcement of your high-priority investigation into demands for rape victims’ mobiles and personal records.

“We also urge police officers as well as CPS as such in order to safeguard victims of rape from these digital investigations, which might be swamping police in irrelevant information and obstructing the prosecution of potentially dangerous offenders. Treating victims like suspects is undoubtedly an affront to justice and a serious breach of people’s privacy rights. This broken system must change.”


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