Thanks for emailing Martin Hewitt, the head of the national police chiefs’ group. Your email was also CC’d to the CPS (the national group of government lawyers, who are also involved in the plans) and Nick Hurd MP, as the Minister responsible for police.

If you receive an email response from them covering any of these points and would like to reply, here are some tips for how you can respond:

“It is not true that sexual assault victims are singled out and forced to hand over their phones.”

  • The NPCC have said that these data disclosure forms were first used in sexual assault and rape cases – but they can be used against victims of all crimes where applicable. However, victims of rape and sexual assault have been subject to growing data downloads in recent years. These new forms entrench and exacerbate a disproportionate and unjust practice.
  • Most importantly, there’s no need for victims to hand over their phones and all the information on them. Police should collect relevant digital evidence – not take phones away from vulnerable victims and trawl through everything. The current downloads are excessive, disproportionate, and breach victims’ rights. They will also result in victims of crime choosing not to come forward.
  • It’s particularly concerning that victims of sexual assault and rape could get asked to hand over their phones and digital history. For years sexual assault survivors have seen their history unfairly being used against them: having old (and irrelevant) messages, photographs and memories dug up to try to discredit their story. These new plans only heighten fears that this will continue, and could mean that fewer victims of crime come forward.

“By law, every case that is investigated must be fair for both the complainant and the accused.

Police must pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry when a crime is reported to make sure the investigation is fair. This may include looking at data on phones.

Phones will only be looked at when relevant to the case.  Only the parts of the phone that might contain relevant information will be looked at.”

  • It’s important that every single case is investigated thoroughly and fairly, and of course that may involve looking at some information on phones. We think this should be done without asking victims of crime for all their information – instead, we think requests for information should be specific, limited to information relevant to the crime and victims’ consent should be freely given.
  • Regardless of what police say they “look at”, having your digital life seized by police and kept on file is a major and unacceptable intrusion into your private life.

“Cases will not automatically be dropped if consent is not given but if a reasonable line of enquiry cannot be tested we may not be able to proceed.”

  • Victims should not be forced into consenting to these excessive downloads by being told that their case won’t continue if they don’t.
  • We understand that a case may not be able to continue if a reasonable line of enquiry can not be followed. However, threatening to drop an investigation because a victim won’t hand over huge amounts of irrelevant data, even their entire digital life, is unfair and obstructs justice.