Woman Instructs Public Law And Human Rights Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell To Investigate
A woman has spoken out after the Crown Prosecution Service apologised after a disc of information connected to her rape case was lost.
Following a member of the public calling 999 in 2018, the woman, who is in her 30s and from the City of London, reported that she had been raped. A police officer with a body-worn video camera attended the scene, and there was also CCTV operating in the area which was subsequently recovered and downloaded by the police.
The matter was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) but a decision was made not to charge the suspect.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked for a review of the case, but again was told no further action would be taken. Documents seen by the woman’s legal team at Irwin Mitchell said she subsequently asked for a further review by the CPS’ Appeals and Review Unit.
Two months later, the woman sought an update on the case and was told there had been a delay as the CPS had requested an additional copy of the bodycam and CCTV footage from the police. As this was reported to have already been provided, the woman was concerned that the original disc of footage had been lost. As a result, she made a complaint but was told no discs were lost and it was dismissed as an internal miscommunication.
Shortly afterwards, however, it was reported to the CPS’ Departmental Security Unit that the disc was lost. The woman was not informed at the time.
Despite being assured by the CPS that no discs had been lost, following a further complaint by the woman, she was informed four months later that a disc containing the bodycam footage of the officer who attended the scene had been lost, and it had not been possible to relocate it.
In early 2020, it was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office. At the same time, the woman raised a formal complaint with the Independent Assessor of Complaints (IAC).
The IAC confirmed that an encrypted disc, containing the body worn footage of the officer who attended the scene and the CCTV evidence had been lost. It was also discovered that the toxicology report and statements taken as part of the police investigation may have been on the disc and therefore lost. The woman was only made aware when the IAC looked into the matter.
As a result, she instructed expert public law and human rights lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether the CPS had acted unlawfully.
The woman’s legal team has now secured her a four-figure settlement following a letter from the CPS in which it apologised for the ‘distress’ caused. It stated that while there was ‘no evidence’ that the disc left the secure floor or was ‘inappropriately accessed’, the woman’s complaint ‘revealed a number of serious procedural issues.’ It also admitted a breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 in that the information in question ‘was not held in the cloud or static hard drive, the disc was lost and was not encrypted.’
In the letter, the CPS also confirmed it had commissioned a review into the handling of discs, with an action plan to be developed nationally to ‘improve the service for other members of the public in future.’
Expert Opinion“The past four years have been incredibly difficult for our client. Not only did she suffer a harrowing ordeal when she was assaulted, she’s then struggled to cope with sensitive information about her being lost by the system meant to protect her.
“Worryingly, this is not an isolated incident as the CPS was previously fined for losing unencrypted DVDs. The Information Commissioner’s Office also published a summary from its data protection audit of the CPS in December 2019, which identified considerable scope for improvement in arrangements to reduce the CPS’ risk of non-compliance with data protection legislation.
“While nothing can make up for the distress our client has faced, we hope the settlement will allow her to move forward as best she can.” Hollie Wheeler, Public Law and Human Rights lawyer
The woman said: “To this day, I still get upset when I think about what happened. I had gone through the worst experience of my life, and to then find out that the video footage taken immediately after the incident, and potentially my test results and statements, had been lost was devastating and I felt violated.
“During the months that followed, I felt overwhelmingly distressed and, worried that the disc could be found anywhere and seen by anyone. Even though the CPS assured me there was no indication of this, I still felt sick with worry.
“The whole incident was handled terribly and I felt I had no option but to make a complaint in order to get answers and assurances. It’s been a few years now and I’m slowly beginning to move forward with my life, but it continues to be tough at times.
“I hope the CPS learns from this. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I have.”