Victims to potentially surrender phones in England and Wales
A change to the law in England and Wales means that victims of serious crimes, including rape, may have to handover their phones so that the police can go through personal data (such as personal email, messages and photographs).
New consent forms, which are passed from the police to victims of crime, are to be used as a way of seeking permission to access their personal data. This comes after a number of rape and serious sexual assault cases collapsed when crucial evidence emerged following examination of data held on phones.
Some charities and campaign groups in Scotland have expressed concern about this move, with anxieties being raised about putting unnecessary pressure on victims to pass on their personal data.
In response, Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, commented:
“The introduction of new consent forms in England and Wales for victims of crime, including those that have been raped, opens up many questions about privacy in the justice system. Although we do not have the same policy in place here in Scotland, there are some cases where personal data is examined in support of a case. What is vitally important is that the victims of such terrible crimes are not violated further through an intrusion into their personal lives and technology.
“Victim Support Scotland is working alongside partners as part of a review group led by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, taking a fresh look at how sexual offence cases are being conducted by courts. We want to know what better way such cases can be dealt with to improve the experience of all participants in the interest of justice.”
Victim Support is Scotland’s largest charity for victims and witnesses of crime is urging those who need support to contact them for free and confidential help. Victim Support Scotland (VSS) provides practical and emotional assistance, enabling victims and witnesses to regain control, confidence and peace of mind.
Victim Support Scotland recently launched a new freephone number – 0800 160 1985 – which is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, with 24/7 information provided via www.victimsupportsco.org.uk.