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23 April 2014, 13:12
Police in Dorset will remove images of victims from a sex offender's laptop.
Earlier this year, Dorset Police was asked to refuse the return of a laptop and other electronic devices to a man who had been convicted of sexual offences.
This equipment was seized in the initial stages of the investigation, but was not used evidentially at court as it contained no indecent images or other evidence of criminality. In such cases, current legislation says the police should return the equipment to its owner in its original condition.
Dorset's Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill launched an e-petition asking for the law to be changed.
Now the force says it will remove the images, 'ensuring that the victims' needs continue to be put first'.
Detective Inspector Steve Symms, of Bournemouth CID, said:
"From the start we have been exploring all of the options available to us to refuse the return of the images. As we said we would, we have sought legal advice regarding this issue.
"We have decided to delete the images of the victims from the laptop and other equipment before returning these items to the prison, to be held until the offender's release. The legislation hasn't changed, however, following legal advice, the Force is confident that taking this course of action is the right thing to do.
"We will always make victims' needs paramount and are prepared to defend our decision if necessary, rather than further exacerbate their suffering."
Dorset Police believes that to return images of the victims to the offender would be incompatible with the victims' right to respect for their private lives under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill added:
"I am pleased to hear that common sense has prevailed in this case.
"Both the Chief Constable and I share the view that victims must be put first.
"I will continue to lobby for change in this area and I encourage members of the public to sign the government e-petition that calls for the legislation to be re-considered."
The PCC's e-petition can be viewed here.