Rape victims plan legal challenge over request to hand over their mobile phones

Rape complainants are planning a legal challenge after police forces introduced new consent forms asking them to hand over their mobile phones.

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) said a claim expected to be brought by at least two individual women who have been told by police their cases are likely to collapse if they do not cooperate with requests for their personal data.

The law firm expressed “serious concerns” over what it calls “excessive disclosure requests” being made of women reporting rape and sexual assault.

The CWJ said it is “clearly having a deterrent effect on the reporting of rape allegations”, giving the example of a woman, referred to as “Olivia”, who recently reported rape to police.

She said: “The data on my phone stretches back seven years and the police want to download it and keep it on file for a century.

“My phone documents many of the most personal moments in my life and the thought of strangers combing through it, to try to use it against me, makes me feel like I’m being violated once again.”

The law firm argues the consent form policy discriminates based on sex, breaches the Data Protection Act and the right to privacy.

Harriet Wistrich (pictured), director of CWJ, said: “It is now routine for any rape complainant to be asked to provide their mobile phone data when reporting a crime.

“Given the amount of personal and often very intimate data stored on such devices, particularly by young women, it is not surprising that many victims who are reporting a deeply violating offence do not wish to be further exposed.

“Most complainants fully understand why disclosure of communications with the defendant is fair and reasonable, but what is not clear is why their past history (including any past sexual history) should be up for grabs.

“We seem to be going back to the bad old days when victims of rape are being treated as suspects.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rick Findler / PA Wire.