Minister praises force’s approach to victims after visit to digital service
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The Minister for Safeguarding has praised Bedfordshire Police’s approach to victims after visiting the force to unveil new guidance about how police safeguard victims’ right to privacy.
The new code of practice strengthens the rights of victims of crimes such as sexual assault, ensuring police can only access limited information from their phones or other digital devices as part of their investigation, and only ever with the victim’s agreement.
Bedfordshire Police has played a key role in leading this area of policing nationally, investing significantly in its digital capability over recent times to improve its investigation into offenders as well as its support to victims as a result.
Minister for Safeguarding Mims Davies said: “I’d like to express my thanks to Bedfordshire Police for hosting me and highlighting the force’s impressive digital capability.
“We are committed to working with our policing partners on putting victims’ needs at the heart of investigations, and ensuring more perpetrators are brought to justice.”
During a visit to the force’s headquarters on Tuesday (18 October) the minister was shown one of Bedfordshire’s four digi-vans, as well as the digital hub where a number of different teams are based.
The force’s digi-vans enable detectives to take data from devices like phones or tablets quickly at the scene of an investigation, rather than seizing them and taking them elsewhere to download the data.
While this process used to take weeks or even months, in the vast majority of cases Bedfordshire Police now return devices to victims within a matter of hours.
This is also the case for those belonging to others not involved in the criminal investigation such as family members, who can have their devices returned once officers have made an initial assessment of the material on their phone at the scene.
Bedfordshire Police Acting Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst: “I really appreciate the minister taking the time to visit us and show an interest in the work we do in the digital space to protect victims here in Bedfordshire.
“These vans enable us to effectively gather evidence at the scene of arrests and the homes of offenders, or at a location convenient to the victim, to ensure that we capture all the digital evidence we need to bring offenders to justice.
“We want all our victims to feel as supported as they can be once they find the courage to come forward and report things to us.
“We do not underestimate how intrusive it must feel to hand something like your mobile phone over to police, but these digi-vans ensure we are now able to give these devices back so much more quickly.
“This new government guidance I hope will also provide victims with further reassurance that we will treat this information with the utmost care and respect.”
The digi-vans are just one part of a wider package of support the force offers to victims, which also includes its dedicated victim engagement officers, the specialist Emerald Centre for victims of sexual abuse as well as the independent Bedfordshire Victim Care Services.
Anyone wishing to report anything to the police, no matter when it took place, can do so via online form or by calling 101.