Rape Crime Disclosure: Latest

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has attacked moves to get rape victims to hand mobile phones to the police or risk prosecutions against their attackers not going ahead.

Mr Corbyn tweeted: “We need to do all we can to support victims of sexual violence to come forward and report cases to the police. With rape and sexual assaults already under-reported, this disturbing move risks letting more rapists get away with it.”

Change UK MP Anna Soubry has called for the withdrawal of a new document requesting victims, including those of rape, to hand over their mobile phones and other digital devices to the police.

Asking an urgent question on the issue in the Commons, Ms Soubry (Broxtowe) warned “it is going to deter victims of rape in particular from coming forward”.

She said: “It’s the way that you deal with these requests that’s critical, what you don’t do is issue a blanket demand for the handover of mobile phones and other digital devices, and then threaten to discontinue cases if a victim, especially a rape victim, then refuses to hand over those devices.”

She added: “Will he withdraw this document because it is going to deter victims of rape in particular from coming forward? Would he ensure that there is no blanket request to rape victims, or indeed any other victim, to hand over phones and other digital devices.”

Policing minister Nick Hurd’s own mobile sounded as he stood up to respond at the despatch box, prompting MPs to laugh as he joked: “Not now mother.”

On the wording, Mr Hurd said: “Now I’ve discussed this with the police, they see that as an actually reasonable statement of fact, but the language used in this is sensitive and (I’m) open to discussing with the police and others about how that may be improved.”

Police forces, he said, had been using forms to request victims’ consent to review mobile phones in investigations including sexual assault cases for some time.

He said: “What is new is a new national form that was introduced today which attempts to distil current best practice to replace the individual versions of the 43 forces, ensuring that there is consistency and clarity for complainants, that is the intention of the police.”

He said: “It is surely critical that victims are not deterred from seeking justice by a perception about how their personal information is handled, they can and should expect nothing less than it will be dealt with in a way that is consistent with both their right to privacy and with the interests of justice.”

He added: “The police have acknowledged that the use of personal data in criminal investigations is a source of anxiety and will continue to work with victim groups and the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that their approach to this issue offers the necessary, if difficult, balance between the requirement for reasonable lines of inquiry and the victims’ right to privacy.”

He added: “We will take a strong interest in this impact assessment of this document, it is not a blanket request.”