Do not force rape victims to choose between privacy and justice, says Dugdale

Victims of rape should not be forced to choose between their privacy and the pursuit of justice, Kezia Dugdale has said.

The Scottish Labour MSP said every effort must be made to ensure they are not deterred from coming forward.

She made the comments after it emerged this week that victims of crimes, including rape, in England and Wales are to be asked to give police consent to access messages, photographs, emails and social media accounts.

It follows warnings from officials that refusing to allow investigators to access their phones could mean prosecutions are halted.

The move is part of a response to a string of rape and serious sexual assault cases collapsing after crucial evidence emerged at the last minute.

Ms Dugdale said safeguards must be in place in to ensure such a move does not and could not happen in Scotland.

“Whether it’s what they wear, their sexual history or who they text, women are once again being forced to choose between their privacy and the pursuit of justice,” she said.

“Access to justice isn’t a carrot to be dangled in front of victims – it is a right.

“When levels of reported rape in Scotland are so low and convictions even lower, we must be making every effort not to deter victims from coming forward but creating a system that people can have confidence in.

“Introducing the requirement for victims to hand over their phone or face their case being dropped would further undermine women’s confidence in the justice system and mean less survivors coming forward.”

Responding to Ms Dugdale’s question, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said women who have been subjected to attacks should be put at the centre of all justice reforms.

“In all of the justice reforms we are taking forward to tackle violence against women – rape, domestic violence – we must make sure that the rights of women or those attacked and abused are absolutely centre stage,” she said.

“We mustn’t make it more difficult or more intimidating or more off-putting for women to come forward and I fear, as Kezia Dugdale does, that the announcements elsewhere in the UK may make that the case.

“So we will ensure that that is at the heart of all of our justice policy and I’m sure this Parliament will work with us in ensuring that that is exactly the environment we are seeking to create.”

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