On 18th June 2020, the ICO released a long-awaited report on police mobile phone extractions. The report covers digital forensics applied to suspects, victims and witnesses and therefore touches on the policy of “digital strip searches” victims of rape and sexual offences are routinely subjected to.
A further ICO report specifically examining the use of victims’ data in the criminal justice system, following a complaint we made in November 2018, is expected later this year.
The ICO’s June report is clear and strong on refuting the police’s ‘digital processing notices’ which entrenched the digital strip search approach. It also strongly criticises the “default position of extracting much data as is available” that we have long campaigned against.
Responding to the report, our director Silkie Carlo said:
“The ICO’s report confirms our long-held view that the police’s default approach to demanding digital strip searches of victims of crime is unlawful, damaging and needs to end.
“Hundreds of people, mainly women victims and survivors of rape and sexual assaults, have been denied justice simply for trying to protect their legal rights when faced with unjustified requests for years of irrelevant data. The police and CPS’s failure to observe basic privacy rights has done irrevocable damage within our justice system and no doubt has allowed dangerous criminals to walk free.
“The onus is now on the Government, the CPS and police to engage with us and victims’ groups to bring about urgent reforms that afford victims’ legal rights to privacy, consent and above all justice.”