It is worth noting, within allegations of sexual offending, mobile devices will not be needed in every case – but when they are, there is explicit guidance that only material relevant to that exact offence may be pursued. This procedure is not new, and the policy has not changed.
It is not true that complainants in rape cases must automatically hand over personal data on their digital devices or run the risk of the prosecution being dropped. Mobile phone data, or social media activity, will only be considered by the police when relevant to an individual case, according to the CPS.
Further, it is not the case, that the complainant’s mobile data will be handed over indiscriminately to lawyers representing the suspect so that the content can be used unfairly to discredit complainants. As previously mentioned, this is because there is clear legal guidance in place to ensure that private information which does not assist the defence, or undermine the prosecution is not disclosed to the defence.
Please note, where material must be disclosed, there are further legal safeguards before it can be used in the course of any trial.
The new consent forms, being used by the police are intended to achieve a consistency of approach, so complainants are not treated differently in different police forces. The new consent forms will replace those who were already being used by the police.
Ultimately, the consent forms are designed to bring clarity around the process and, to give victims an understanding of how their data might be used so they can have the confidence to come forward and support a prosecution.
All investigation proceedings are to be fair for both complainant and suspect and, all reasonable lines of enquiry must be pursued. – This applies to all offences and is not restricted to allegations of sexual offending.
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