There have been a variety of reports in the news recently about rape victims being required or requested to hand over their mobile phones before the case against the alleged rapist can proceed.

Various shouty versions of the news have been shared around on social media, but what is the true story? The BBC seems to have a balanced and factual article, which gives the following main points:

  • Victims of several different types of crime, including rape, are to be asked to hand over their phones to police.
  • This is to prevent relevant information from being withheld, in court.
  • Victim Support has said that the move could stop victims coming forward.
  • Police will be using a digital consent form, for all investigations, but especially in cases of rape or sexual assault where the victim knows the perpetrator.
  • There are concerns that a person’s right to privacy would be violated, with critics calling it a ‘digital strip-search’.
  • The Centre for Women’s Justice is planning a legal challenge to the move.  One of the women involved with this case has an article in the Guardian about her ordeal.

The Guardian has an article that carries slightly different information, including that around 93.000 police officers and staff have undertaken disclosure training in the last year, to ensure that they understand that providing the defence with timely access to relevant evidence is obligatory. Three AI tools are being tested to find a means of weeding through the contents of phones to establish what is relevant data. The Guardian article also has a link to download the full briefing document for police and prosecutors, and 1/4 of the way down the page.