England: Rape complainants asked to hand over wealth of personal information

England: Rape complainants asked to hand over wealth of personal information

Complainants in rape cases in some parts of England are being asked to hand over massive amounts of personal information in order to progress police investigations into their allegations, The Guardian reports.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, lead for adult sexual offences at the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), suggested that prosecutors were being “more cautious” in the wake of the disclosures scandal earlier this year.

The Metropolitan Police reportedly requests access to complainants’ social media, web browsing activity and content, instant messages, location data, emails, deleted data, images, videos, audio files, apps, contacts, documents, MMS and SMS messages.

Merseyside Police reportedly requests access to complainants’ educational notes, counselling notes and social services records, and asks to speak to a complainant’s counsellor or teacher.

The information collected can be retained by the police forces for up to 100 years and disclosed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the defence.

However, critics say that complainants are regularly advised that providing access is necessary in order for a prosecution to take place. They argue that sensitive information - such as counselling notes - should not be disclosed to the accused.

Vera Baird, victims lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), said: “The huge differences in the records that are demanded shows the utter irrelevance of much of this material. Merseyside police and the Met in particular should go back to the rule book. That requires that only reasonable lines of investigation are pursued and anything found that may undermine the prosecution or support the defence is disclosed.

“There’s no excuse for a trawl through everything in their life for something the defence can throw at the victim in court to dent their confidence or question their reputation. A criminal case is about what happened not whether the complainant qualifies for sainthood.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “The retrieval of personal data in police investigations is a hugely complex area of work and we are pleased to see increasing public discussion not only in relation to how such material is seized, searched and examined, but also on how recovered material is used to inform decision making throughout the criminal justice process.”

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