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Why are rape victims being told their case may be dropped?

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Rape victims are among those who will be asked to hand their smart phones over to the police or risk the prosecution against the suspect being dropped.

 

Why have rape cases been collapsing?

This new measure follows the collapse of several rape and serious sexual assault cases in 2017 after crucial evidence emerged at the last minute.  This included the case of Liam Allen who was charged with 12 counts of rape and sexual assault. Mr Allen’s trial collapsed after three days following new evidence from the victim’s phone which had not previously been disclosed. Mr Allen had been under investigation for almost two years prior to his trial collapsing. CPS data from 2017-18 showed that 841 known cases were stopped due to disclosure failings which is alarming and can lead to wrongful convictions.

 

What are the Police doing to try and prevent rape cases collapsing?

So far 43 police forces have rolled out a new consent form which asks for permission to access data such as messages, emails, social media accounts and photographs.  The police claim they are attempting to fill the gap in the law which previously prevented the police from forcing the victims and witnesses to disclose their phones, laptops, tablets and smart watches. The new digital consent forms can be used in any criminal investigations but will be most likely be used in rape and sexual assault cases, where the complainants often know the suspects.

 

What do the CPS say about preventing rape cases from collapsing?

Max Hill, the Director of Public prosecutions has stated that the devices would only be looked at when forming a ‘reasonable line of enquiry’ and only using the ‘relevant material’ at court providing it meets ‘hard and fast’ rules. The new forms will give the victim the chance to explain if they do not wish to hand over their phones, but it is clear that if they refuse then it may not be possible for the investigation or prosecution to continue.

 

What does disclosure in a rape cases mean?

The prosecution have a duty to disclose any material which undermines the prosecution case or which may assist the defence in relation to an issue they have raised, the most obvious example is when the defendant says that the sexual activity was consensual. When messages have been exchanged between the parties around the time of the sexual activity or immediately before or after then this may be crucial evidence which would assist a jury.

 

Will the Police seize the phone of someone accused of rape?

If someone is investigated for rape it is very likely that the Police will seize their mobile phone to see whether there is any information on it which might assist their case and which would then form evidence in the case against the defendant. It is unlikely that the phone would be returned before the conclusion of the case.

 

What do the experts say about rape cases collapsing?

Michelle Harding discusses the issue of rape victims being asked to hand over their phones on BBC Radio Leicester on 29th April 2019 from 5pm

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p075vfwv

 

How can we help?

The importance of a strong defence team to represent you has never been more crucial. At Emery Johnson Astills we have an experienced team who are experts in advising and representing clients facing allegations of sexual misconduct. We can advise you every step of the way and our specialist Solicitor Advocates have a track record of positive outcomes. 

If you find yourself under investigation for a sexual offence it is vital that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible.

At Emery Johnson Astills we offer 24 hour police station advice and representation. Police Station advice is available to everyone free of charge and legal aid may be available for your case at the Magistrates’ and Crown Court, however, many people prefer to instruct us on a private basis. We will of course discuss all options and alternatives with you.

 

To discuss any criminal offences please contact the Criminal Defence Team at Emery Johnson Astills in Leicester on 0116 255 4855 or in Loughborough on 01509 610 312.