UK police to ask rape victims for access to their phones

An Apple iPhone.
Photo credit: Getty

UK police will ask victims of crimes, including rape, to hand over their phones or risk prosecutions not going ahead.

Police in England and Wales are asking for the devices to ensure officers have access to all available evidence, the BBC reports.

The introduction of consent forms for mobile devices came after a huge rise in cases collapsing after new evidence emerged at the last minute.

Victims, who are asked for their phones, will be given a consent form, which asks for the device's pin code or pattern lock. The form says face or fingerprint locks should be disabled.

The forms say victims can refuse to give permission for police to access the data, but this could mean it would not be possible for the investigation or prosecution to continue.

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said digital information would only be looked at when it forms part of a line of inquiry, and there would be stringing rules about whether the material would go to court.

The move has advocates concerned it could lead to fewer people coming forward to report sexual assault for fear of being forced to hand over their phones.

"We seem to be going back to the bad old days when victims of rape are being treated as suspects," Harriet Wistrich from the Centre for Women's Justice told the BBC.

But police representatives say it's vital, even if they wouldn't want to hand over their own devices.

"I wouldn't relish that myself," Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nicholas Ephgrave told the BBC, later adding it is sometimes necessary to get information from phones.