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Data gathering ‘unlawful’ under GDPR

(Posted on 19/10/18)

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Data gathering ‘unlawful’ under GDPR

In a letter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), London’s victims’ commissioner Claire Waxman of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has voiced her concern that rape victims may be discouraged from coming forward thanks to intrusive gathering of social media data by police.

For their claims to be pursued, victims must sign their consent to allow Prosecution and Defence lawyers access to highly personal information. Under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) the consent forms or ‘Stafford statements’ may be unlwawful if claimants are left with little real choice in signing.

“Victims are very concerned that they are being asked for so much sensitive material – not only their phones, but also past medical history, their social services records and more,” said the Commissioner. “Victims often don’t feel it useful, relevant or reasonable, but have to give consent it if they want to access justice. The justice process has just lot a grip on this; on the ground it is getting worse and worse.”

Waxman also drew attention to the disparity between defendants’ and victims’ rights, the former being governed by PACE, “which sets out clear, transparent and stringent parameters that must be adhered to”.

“If we are putting victims on trial – and by putting them through this investigatory process let’s be honest we are – then they should be afforded the same rights under a free trial and they are not,” she added. “I think in light of what happened early this year the CPS had a blanket idea of ‘let’s get all information possible’, and that is completely the wrong way around.

“We are in a situation where the system is completely blocked, and nothing is getting through. That is not a justice process that is working – we are in a critical situation and it has to be tackled.”

The backlash comes after the disclosure crisis which came to a head last December with student Liam Allen facing wrongful conviction for rape until a miscarriage of justice was ultimately averted by the disclosure of his accuser’s social media history, including hundreds of messages setting out her rape fantasies.

An ICO spokesperson said: “We are aware of the concerns about the processing of victims’ personal information and are in the early stages of considering the issues.”