A piece by John Simpson in today’s Times. I’ve added [alleged] before each instance of the words “victim” and “victims”, where appropriate:
Disclosure of mobile phone evidence risks [alleged] sex assault victims being blamed for the digital equivalent of a short skirt, a leading police officer has said.
Sara Thornton, chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), told The Times that officers and prosecutors must balance the duty to disclose and interrogate digital evidence with the need to avoid discouraging [alleged] victims from coming forward.
Forces have been scrambling to address errors in the disclosure process that have jeopardised cases, while charges and prosecutions for sexual offences remain well below averages for other crimes.
“We don’t want this to make [alleged] victims feel that they can’t report offences because they fear the intrusion into their private life and their private information because they fear that that will either be shared by the defence inappropriately or be dealt with in court,” she said.
“That’s where we came to the equivalent of the digital short skirt — this idea that we must be reassuring [alleged] victims that information which is nothing to do with the case would never be used to discredit them in the way that the idea of a woman’s dress in some way [is used to suggest] she’s responsible [for being attacked].”
The Times revealed in 2017 that failures in the disclosure process threatened dozens of convictions. The Crown Prosecution Service reviewed thousands of cases after two rape trials were thrown out for failure to disclose evidence on the mobile phone of the accuser.
Last year, 47 prosecutions for rape or serious sexual offences which were stopped were found to have issues with the disclosure of material. Police were accused of “cherry picking” evidence to fit a narrative and deliver a conviction and there has been a drive towards more thorough disclosure.
Ms Thornton said that improvements to the process must not be at the expense of leaving [alleged] victims too afraid to come forward and volunteer evidence from their own devices. “This discussion started when there were a group of amazing women around a table and people [raised] concerns about the levels of rape prosecutions and convictions and intrusion,” she said.
“Those of us in the business of prosecution and working with prosecutors understand those issues we are trying so hard to investigate fairly and also balance that against people’s [J4MB: women’s] privacy.”
Prosecutions for rape fell by almost a quarter in the year to September and referrals from police forces fell by nine per cent. [J4MB: An obvious explanation for these statistics, that false rape allegations had reduced in number due to the increased public recognition that social media evidence might exonerate innocent men, is of course not even considered in this article.]
“It’s essential that investigators are open-minded and fair . . . they have a duty to be fair,” Ms Thornton said. “What we did [after] those cases was create a national disclosure plan and, of course, that’s the right thing to do, but we want to balance the requirement for reasonable lines of inquiry and the complainant’s [J4MB: woman’s] right to privacy.” [J4MB: Who will “balance” those requirements? Feminists, and those doing their bidding. This is just another attempt to tip the scales of justice against usually innocent men.]
Ms Thornton, who is due to leave her role to become the anti-slavery commissioner next month, said improvements to disclosure were being delivered and forces had installed officers to oversee the changes.
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