Taking victims’ phones is a step too far

Today’s stupid ideas: rape victims should hand over their phones to police or have the investigations dropped.

There are two big problems with this. One, it’s victim-blaming: the number of false allegations is incredibly low and massively overshadowed by the solid, evidence-backed allegations that don’t lead to prosecution. The idea that a victim’s communications history and social media should be demanded before investigating rape is despicable. It’s also a gift for defence lawyers who could ask for such history so they can try to paint the victim as somehow responsible for her own assault if she didn’t live the life of a Carmelite nun.

Two, you can’t trust the police to get it back to you. I’m seeing lots of women on social media with tales of phones held by the police for as long as three years, three years in which the bills still had to be paid; one woman was hounded by a debt recovery agency over her Vodafone bill for a device the police kept for months. By the time it was finally returned, the hugely expensive phone had been in police hands for so long that it was effectively obsolete and completely worthless. As the woman put it on Twitter: “I had to make do with an old handset (not a smartphone, an ancient handset by today’s standards) on a pay-as-you-go basis until I could afford otherwise. Having been the victim of a crime, I now felt I was being punished for reporting it.”