Dorset Police are refusing to delete photos from the computer of a paedophile that show the girl he abused in swimwear and leotards. The police claim that, as the photos are neither prohibited nor classed as indecent under UK law, it would be unlawful for them to be deleted.
The offender in question, a man in his 50s, was jailed last year following his admission to a number of offenses. These included sexual assault of a child aged under 13. He was sentenced to a prison sentence of nine years. The man cannot be named for the same of his victim’s privacy.
He has now made a formal request that his mobile and laptop are returned to him. Officers are indeed required to return this property according to the legislation under which it was seized. However, the PC still contains photographs of the girl he abused, many of which show her in swimwear or in leotards, which the police claim they have no power to delete.
The mother of the victim said that she was “appalled that the man who abused my child can ask the police to hand over our family photos for him to keep for the rest of his life.”
She went on to say: “My daughters struggle every day with the devastating consequences of his abuse and this will only make them feel more humiliated and degraded. Why should we continue to be traumatised further?”
As the photos are not illegal or technically indecent, the police claim they have no legal power to delete them from the offender’s personal computer. However, human rights organisation Liberty disagrees with this view of the law. They claim that returning the devices with the photographs left in place would breach two separate articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Articles three of the Convention affords protection against inhumane treatment, while article eight deals with the issue of invasion of privacy. According to Liberty, in a letter written to Dorset Police, returning such intimate photos of the girls to the man who abused them for him to keep indefinitely would violate the Convention on both counts. Not only would it “[cause] the girls a significant amount of distress,” but would also represent “an enormous violation of their dignity and personal integrity.”
However, Dorset Police maintain that their options are limited. Martin Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, has insisted that the police are not to blame for the fact and that he will lobby for a reform to the relevant legislation.
“Think of the trauma this causes to the victims,” Underhill said. “And think of the control and power this gives the abuser.”