UK police request access to phones of those reporting rapes

Metropolitan police admit that new consent forms allowing UK detectives to search the mobile phones of rape complainants are controversial.

Editorial Team
Jessica Sirotin NewsMavens, Europe
UK police request access to phones of those reporting rapes - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

New national consent forms that have been released nationwide will allow police to search the phone's of women reporting rapes for texts, images or any other information they consider pertinent to the case.

Some critics have complained that this is furthering the biases against women when they report rapes.

According to Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “We have an extremely serious problem with prosecuting rape in this country and it is a fact that most rapists get away with it. Part of the reason for this is investigations too often focus on women’s character, honesty and sexual history, despite rules which are supposed to prevent this, instead of the actions and behavior of the person accused."

“If the new national consent form that victims will be asked to sign gives the police complete access to a woman’s entire personal records, phones, computers, etc – which may include thousands of personal and private conversations and images – these prejudices and barriers are being reinforced.”

However, according to some officials, those who refuse this consent out of privacy concerns could enable their alleged assailants to escape charges.

Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, stated, “You can end up in an extreme case where there’s outright refusal [by a complainant] to allow access [to phone content] … and that can have consequences for our ability to pursue a prosecution." Furthermore, he said, everyone needs to understand that whether they are a suspect, or a victim, their phones might possess relevant information. 

There continue to be concerns about the prosecution of rape in the UK as the number of charges fell by 23% in recent years. Concerns over evidence handling, among other problems, have forced the investigators to adopt a more through approach to their investigation, and reduced the amount of cases that are being processed.

Details from the story:

  • Approximately 93,000 police officers and staff have undergone disclosure training in the past year to ensure they provide defense lawyers with timely access to relevant evidence.
  • Liam Allen, saw his trial for rape abandoned after police failed to provide the defense with extenuating phone records. He has welcomed the move as a “good start”.
  • Speaking to BBC Breakfast Allen said: “I understand there are reservations .... But considering my case ... it was that the evidence was on the complainant’s phone [which was] so much more valuable than people realize. It can be so much more valuable to prosecution cases as well as defense cases. It is a good step in the right direction.”
  • However, research for the Home Office suggests that only 4% of cases of sexual violence reported to the UK police are found or suspected to be false. 
  • Studies carried out in Europe and in the US indicate rates of between 2% and 6%.
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