Earlier this year the government revealed that more than 99% of rapes reported to the police do not end in a conviction. Off the back of these findings the Home Office has committed to improving victim engagement with the criminal justice system to improve current conviction rates.
This week a new code of practice for powers included in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Act 2022 was introduced by parliament to ensure victims’ rights were at the heart of rape investigations. This will prevent officers from completing a full mobile phone download to extract its entire contents. Such extractions have been called out as intrusive and acts as a further form of revictimization – often making the victim feel like a suspect.
The code stemmed from the findings of a nine-week consultation over the summer period. The consultation was part of the Home Office’s wider programme ‘to transform the way rape and sexual assault cases are investigated and prosecuted.’ Safeguarding minister Mims Davis commented that ‘these new measures are part of our commitment to ensuring police investigate crimes against women and girls thoroughly, with a clear focus on the suspect, not the victim.’
‘Victims are being told to consent to handing over extraordinary amounts of information about their lives, in the immediate aftermath of a life-changing attack’, Information Commissioner John Edwards added.
Protecting victim privacy is essential, but, if the focus is on the victim, does that push the privacy rights of suspects to the margins?
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Disclosure, Tim de Meyer said: “As investigators we must ensure the suspect’s absolute right to a fair trial while protecting the privacy of victims and witnesses. The new code of practice will help us to achieve this.”
Criminal investigation ought to be fair and robust – for all participants involved.
The Home Office’s update can be found here.