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'I was devastated': the crime victims made to give up their phones

People who reported abuse reveal the personal impact of police forces’ requests for their data

In January 2017, a 30-year-old man reported himself to the Metropolitan police. He informed officers he had been having sex with a minor and had potentially given him a sexually transmitted infection. The minor, a 12-year-old boy, confirmed the details of the abuse and rape to police officers in February 2017.

Despite the age of the victim, which meant the case was a matter of statutory rape with no defence of “mistaken reasonable belief”, and the admission by the perpetrator, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said a review of the boy’s phone was required for a charging decision to be made. Among the data the Met’s specialist unit were instructed to extract and review were 40,000 messages from the boy’s phone.

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