We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Third party material requests in RAOSO “not functioning effectively”

A consultation organised by the Home Office has found inconsistencies in requests for third party material in RAOSO cases across England and Wales.

RAOSO victims are having “significant amounts of their personal records unnecessarily requested”, the Safeguarding minister has said. 

MP Sarah Dines’ comments come following a Home Office consultation which has found that third party material (TPM) requests about victims of rape and other sexual offences can sometimes be “unnecessary and disproportionate” and made to “test” victim credibility. 

The consultation saw over 400 responses from stakeholders including the police, the CPS, third parties who receive requests and victims. 

Responses have highlighted a lack of consistency across England and Wales - with some CPS areas and forces correctly requesting TPM only where necessary and proportionate while others are making broader requests. 

Victim groups have said that the “invasion of privacy” can be a contributing factor to decisions to withdraw from cases. 

The responses to the consultation did not give a clear indication as to whether inappropriate TPM requests tend to originate in the police, from the CPS or defence. 

However, 52% responses selected by police and 49% of those selected by unaffiliated respondents felt that such inappropriate requests were “driven by the CPS” - either in the form of a direct request, or because the police predict the CPS will ask for a large amount of material. 

It compares with 10% of CPS respondents who agreed such requests were driven by the CPS (22% felt they were driven by defence, and 24% thought police predictions on what the CPS would ask for led them to over-request). 

One police respondent told the consultation: “Rape cases in particular seem to attract a considerable amount of third party material requests about counselling and therapy sessions - whether related to the offence in question or not - with a view to discrediting victims and witnesses”.

A futher police respondent said that fishing expeditions “were extremely commonplace in all types of investigation”. It’s something they said applied across the board - not just for TPM. 

Meanwhile the majority of police and CPS respondents said that third parties do not provide requested material within a reasonable timeframe. 

A small number of police respondents felt it was because requests weren’t clear enough, however mostly it was thought that third parties did not prioritise such requests and were not trained to deal with them. 

The current legal framework requires requests to be necessary and proportionate - the report has concluded therefore that this “may not always be applied correctly”. 

The Home Office has subsequently committed to certain measures - including fresh legislation to give “clear guidance” and ensure requests are necessary and proportionate. 

If the police failed to abide by the statutory duties included in the legislation, they would be in breach of the law and could be open to legal challenge.

The Home Office will also explore ways the police and CPS can consistently engage in Early Advice - to establish parameters for TPM early on in the investigation. 

The Law Commission is currently examining the disclosure and admissibility of complainant’s personal records - with a final report due this year. 

TVP ACC Tim De Meyer (recently appointed as the next Surrey Chief), who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s work on disclosure, said: “Police investigators must sometimes seek third party information in order to ensure that they impartially follow all potential leads in an investigation.

“Forces are committed to bringing offenders to justice while treating victims with sensitivity and respect during an investigation, and so policing welcomes the new proposals.”

Leave a Comment
View Comments 3
In Other News
Rape Review progress: “cause for cautious optimism”
More forces join Operation Soteria
Avon and Somerset’s Project Bluestone: a case study
More News