Letter to the Sunday Telegraph from Sue Hemming, Director of Legal Services, on personal data and how it is used in criminal investigations


The way personal data is used in criminal investigations is an issue of growing significance. Balancing the huge increase in digital information with our duty to respect privacy and ensure all reasonable lines of inquiry are pursued is an important challenge (Rape victims fear being ‘put on trial’ by phone history, 13 January).

The lines of enquiry deemed “reasonable” will depend on the circumstances of each case. This was reinforced by a recent judgement from the Court of Appeal, which confirmed that a fair trial was still possible in a case where a mobile phone had not been seized. In many investigations it will be necessary for the prosecution to look at some personal data but this does not mean access is needed to everything or that it will be automatically disclosed to the defence.

There are ‎also important safeguards to prevent complainants being cross-examined on irrelevant sexual history. We are working with the police and victims groups to ensure that complainants understand how, and to what extent, their devices will be examined, how data will be used and the circumstances when it will be necessary to share it with the defence.

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