Tech summit to discuss handling of ‘digital strip searches’ for victims of crime

News, Smartphones

Ministers will meet senior police officers and top prosecutors to discuss technological solutions for handling data from the mobile phones of victims of crimes including rape.

The summit on Monday is part of the response to the disclosure scandal, which rocked confidence in the criminal justice system when a string of rape and serious sexual assault cases collapsed after crucial evidence emerged at the last minute.

Solicitor General Lucy Frazer and Policing Minister Nick Hurd will host Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, and Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird, along with technology industry representatives at the Law Society’s offices in London.

They will discuss the disclosure of digital evidence in criminal cases and consider technological innovations, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Mr Hurd said: “It is vital we maintain public confidence in the police and our criminal justice system to make sure victims are not let down.

“Technological advancements have created challenges – the average mobile phone today is capable of holding the data equivalent of around five million A4 pages.

“Police recognise the need to improve and it is right that the Government works with forces, prosecutors and the tech sector to make sure both victims and criminals get the justice they deserve.”

It comes after an angry reaction to the introduction of consent forms, which were dubbed “digital strip searches” by campaigners.

Rolled out across all 43 police forces in England and Wales, they inform victims that refusing to allow investigators access to their messages, photographs, emails and social media accounts could mean prosecutions were halted.

Ms Frazer said: “We need to do more to support the police and prosecutors to adapt to the increasing volume of digital material in the criminal justice system.

“The Government is also determined to ensure that victims of sexual violence and all other crimes are not deterred from seeking justice because of fear of what could happen to their personal information.

“We must ensure full public confidence in the disclosure system.”

Chris Price
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