In April 2019, the new police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) policy demanding access to the entire contents of the mobile phones of victims of sexual violence was brought in, telling victims that cases won't continue unless they consent to handing over this data. Following a national outcry, the police and CPS promised to meet with stakeholders to discuss urgent reform, but have now cancelled the meeting at the last minute. Is the Metropolitan Police Service taking any steps to prevent the disproportionate and excessive intrusion into victims' digital lives, and to protect them from these invasive downloads?
The MPS position, supported by a Court of Appeal decision (RvE 2018), is that examining a victim’s phone is not automatically a ‘reasonable line of enquiry’, and any request to examine a victim’s phone will be based on specific circumstances.
Investigators are guided by the judgement of the courts on what constitutes a ‘reasonable line of enquiry’ to strike a balance between a defendant’s right to a fair trial and preventing unnecessary intrusion into the privacy of the victim. We are committed to supporting victims of crime, and believe that honest communication throughout the process is vital to maintaining victims’ trust. Informed consent is an important part of this process.
In October 2018, my Victims’ Commissioner called upon the ICO to investigate the practice of gaining consent for disclosure in such offences. The findings will be taken forward in London and further recommendations made to the National Victims Commissioner.