A student who was wrongly charged with rape has said men falsely accused of a sexual offence are also victims as he welcomed the move to force complainants to hand over their phones for disclosure purposes in such cases. Liam Allan , then 22, went on trial in December 2017 facing 12 counts of rape and sexual assault. He had spent two years on bail and endured three days of trial before the case collapsed as it emerged his supposed victim had been pestering him for “casual sex”. Now, he says while it was “completely understandable” that rape complainants might not wish to hand over data, he insists that the move is “a good step as long as it’s not trawling through unnecessary information”.”I was innocent,” Mr Allan told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I was asked to give over my phone. Does that mean I lose all my rights to privacy because I was accused?”But I’m innocent. I am now a victim because someone has made a horrible accusation.”He added that he was comfortable that the police may find things that will assist the prosecution, and they may find things that may help the defence when analysing a mobile phone. “The police are really saying ‘If you don’t let us do this, the CPS won’t prosecute’,” she said.”It is a real concern that people will be put off making a complaint in the first place if it’s widely thought they are going to have to hand over lots of personal data – everyone lives on their phones, particularly teenagers.”In the lead-up to trials, police and prosecutors are required to hand over relevant material that can undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence. Max Hill QCCredit:The Telegraph/Rii Schroer Liam Allan, whose trial for rape collapsed when it emerged texts had not been disclosed, says “it’s not like we should be treated exactly the same” but alleged rapists and victims “deserve the same rights until the point of conviction #r4today https://t.co/OfQWJKHKaZ pic.twitter.com/s8clXtcsEI— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) April 29, 2019 Police and prosecutors say the forms are an attempt to plug a gap in the law, which cannot force complainants or witnesses to disclose their phones, laptops, tablets and smart watches.The regime came under sharp focus from the end of 2017 after a string of defendants – including Mr Allan – had charges of rape and serious sexual assault against them dropped when critical material emerged as they went on trial.Mr Allan said that in his case he “did not even think to ask” for details of the complainant’s phone contacts with friends around the time of the alleged assault. In rape and sexual assault cases, prosecutors also now use disclosure protocols previously used in terror trials. “It has to work both ways – the ideology of it all. We deserve the same rights until the point of conviction,” Mr Allan said.Rape victims are being told they must hand over their mobile phones to police or risk prosecutions against their attackers not going ahead.Consent forms, which ask permission to access messages, photographs, emails and social media accounts, have been rolled out across the 43 forces in England and Wales.The move is part of the response to the disclosure scandal, which rocked confidence in the criminal justice system when a string of rape and serious sexual assault cases collapsed after crucial evidence emerged at the last minute. Police and prosecutors have sought to reassure victims of crime that only material relevant to a potential prosecution will be harvested, but the forms state even information of a separate criminal offence “may be retained and investigated”.They also state: “If you do not provide consent for the police to access data from your device you will be given the opportunity to explain why.”If you refuse permission for the police to investigate, or for the prosecution to disclose material which would enable the defendant to have a fair trial then it may not be possible for the investigation or prosecution to continue.”But privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch has dubbed the measures “digital strip searches” and said “treating rape victims like suspects” could deter people from reporting crimes.Griff Ferris, legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch, said urgent reform is needed so victims do not “have to choose between their privacy and justice”.”The CPS is insisting on digital strip searches of victims that are unnecessary and violate their rights,” he said.Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird said the forms are just part of the problem as police and prosecutors look to harvest third-party material, such as school records and medical notes. The digital consent forms can be used for complainants in any criminal investigations but are most likely to be used in rape and sexual assault cases, where complainants often know the suspect.The forms state: “Mobile phones and other digital devices such as laptop computers, tablets and smart watches can provide important relevant information and help us investigate what happened.”This may include the police looking at messages, photographs, emails and social media accounts stored on your device.”We recognise that only the reasonable lines of inquiry should be pursued to avoid unnecessary intrusion into the personal lives of individuals.”The reactionScotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner Nicholas Ephgrave said he recognised the “inconvenient” and “awkward” nature of handing devices to police and admitted: “I wouldn’t relish that myself.”He added: “People who have been victimised and subjected to serious sexual assaults, for example, that’s an awful thing to happen to them and you don’t wish to make it worse by making their lives really difficult.”But to pursue the offender, the way the law is constructed, we do have these obligations, so we have to find a way of getting that information with a) as much consent as we can, which is informative, and b) with the minimum of disruption and irritation and embarrassment to the person whose phone it is that we’re dealing with.” “That was some of the valuable evidence,” he said. “If we have to ask for these things, not knowing how the process works, they we are at a disadvantage and it’s not a fair trial.”The consent form is a good step, as long as it’s carried out in the right way, as long as it’s not trawling through unnecessary information.”The consent forms: how they workDirector of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said digital devices will only be looked at when they form a “reasonable line of inquiry” and only “relevant” material will go before a court if it meets “hard and fast” rules.”If there’s material on a device, let’s say a mobile phone, which forms a reasonable line of inquiry, but doesn’t undermine the prosecution case and doesn’t support any known defence case, then it won’t be disclosed,” he said.In 2017, the CPS launched a review of every live rape and serious sexual assault prosecution in England and Wales and, along with police, has implemented an improvement plan to try to fix failings in the system.Some 93,000 officers have undertaken training, while police hope artificial intelligence technology can help trawl through the massive amounts of data stored on phones and other devices. 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