Victims of crime to hand in their phone or risk prosecutions not going ahead

29th April 2019 Business Crime

The National Police Chief’s Council (“NPCC„) and the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS„) have revealed plans which aim to stop sexual offence cases collapsing due to fundamental evidence emerging at the eleventh hour.

Victims of crimes will be asked to complete digital consent forms (“the forms„) to authorise police to access personal data including, inter alia, messages and photographs. The forms have been rolled out across the 43 forces in England and Wales in an attempt to combat cases being dropped over disclosure failings.

Hundreds of cases were dropped in 2017 due to a failure to disclose evidence. In December 2018, the trial of Liam Allan who faced 12 counts of rape and sexual assault was dropped when evidence on a computer disc showing messages from the complainant constantly asking for ‘casual sex’ materialised. The CPS admitted that the justice system has ‘systemic’ problems.

The police and prosecutors advise that the forms are an attempt to fix a gap in the law as under the current legal framework the police have no legal power to size phones, tablets or any other digital device from a complainant.

The forms will most likely be used in rape and sexual assault cases whereby complainants more often than not know the suspect.

Victims will be given the opportunity to explain why they don’t wish to give consent for police to access data, they will also be told: “If you refuse permission for the police to investigate, or for the prosecution to disclose material which would enable the defendant to have a fair trial then it may not be possible for the investigation or prosecution to continue(emphasis added).

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the new policy has already received criticism from a number of campaign groups who believe that the new policy will deter victims of rape from coming forward and that it interferes with their rights to privacy.

Of course, the new policy is a welcomed stepping-stone to ensuring that those accused of committing criminal offences, especially ones as ferocious as rape, have a fair trial and any evidence which may assist with their defence or undermine the prosecution’s case is disclosed at the earliest opportunity possible.

Our Business Crime and Regulation team have extensive experience in providing advice and guidance on the offences outlined above. If you require advice please feel free to get in touch with a member of our team on 0345 872 6666.

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Hojol Uddin is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Driving Offences department

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