PHOTOGRAPHS of a paedophile's young victim will be deleted from his laptop and mobile phone by police before the devices are returned to him, the Echo can reveal.
Dorset Police chiefs have taken legal advice and now say they will erase the images at the request of the schoolgirl victim and her mother.
They believe returning the family snapshots, which include images of the victim and her sister, would be a breach of the human rights of both girls.
The victim’s mum told the Echo today: “We are incredibly relieved. The consequences for us as a family were unthinkable had he been given access to the pictures.”
Just two weeks ago, the force’s legal officers said they had no choice under the current law but to return the devices and the images to the paedophile who was jailed for nine years in December for a number of offences against his own stepdaughter.
Officers said that as the devices were not used in evidence in the case and did not contain indecent images, destruction orders for the data could not be sought.
The family described the situation as “appalling” and said it would prolong the girl’s suffering.
But now in a letter to the civil rights group, Liberty, which took up the family's case, Dorset Police have said they intend to remove all pictures of the girl and her sister and retain them for six years.
Chief Constable, Debbie Simpson, will also write to the abuser in prison to tell him his devices will be given back – without the images.
She will say returning the pictures of the children would be incompatible with their right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The laptop, mobile and a memory stick will be given back to the 58-year-old abuser when he completes the custodial part of his sentence.
Both Dorset’s police commissioner, Martyn Underhill and Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood had taken up the case on behalf of the family.
Mr Underhill said: “This is great news for the family. Commonsense has prevailed. But the legal and political fight goes on to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other victims.”
The churchgoing abuser is not being named by the Echo to protect the identity of his victim.
- The victim’s mother told the Daily Echo: "The retention of these photos would have had a lifelong impact and impeded my children’s already difficult road to recovery.
“I am extremely grateful to Liberty for taking on this cause and giving my daughters a voice.
“We are so relieved this part of our nightmare is over and that we don't have to go through long and arduous court proceedings.
“The Human Rights Act has given us vital protection in this case.”
Statement from Dorset Police
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.”