abuse victims

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Police accused of cover-up over loss of video interviews with abuse victims

Published September 22, 2014 by misty534

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Labour MP Keith Vaz said he was ‘deeply concerned by the serious security breach’

  • Interview recordings with abuse were being edited by a private firm for CPS
  • Computers containing the statements were stolen from Manchester office 
  • Police accused of cover-up after asking those affected to keep quiet about it
  • MP Keith Vaz says he is ‘deeply concerned by serious security breach’

Vulnerable victims of sex crimes have reacted with panic and fury after highly sensitive videos of their police interviews were stolen in an ‘unacceptable’ breach of security.

The theft of computers containing the statements sparked disbelief among witnesses when they were informed of the break-in.

And police were accused of trying to cover up the incident by asking those affected to keep quiet about it.

The recordings were being edited by a private firm in Greater Manchester for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Last night, Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons’ Home Affairs Committee, said he was ‘deeply concerned by the serious security breach’ and voiced ‘surprise’ that a private firm had control of such data.

The loss is a blow for the CPS in the North-West, which oversaw the prosecution of the Rochdale gang in which nine men were convicted for exploiting dozens of girls as young as 13.

Publicity from the trial led to hundreds of victims of sexual abuse coming forward after suffering in silence for years.

But yesterday, it emerged that copies of their video statements had been stolen ten days ago, on September 11.

One witness, whose evidence related to attacks against her as a child, told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘I was told by police that my statement had gone missing. The CPS uses an outside firm to edit the videos and they were all stored on computers.

‘The office was burgled and they all went missing. We were asked not to make the theft public. We were told by police that they’d been recovered today. They said they hadn’t been tampered with but how do they know for sure?

‘You’d have thought these files would have been kept under tighter security.’

In a statement yesterday, a CPS spokesman said that it was now co-operating with a police inquiry following a burglary at the premises of Swan Films, a Manchester-based video editing contractor for the CPS.

He said: ‘During the burglary, it is believed that material relating to a small number of cases, including some police interviews with victims or witnesses, sent to the company since August 1 this year within the Greater Manchester area, were stolen. Master copies of all material are retained by the prosecution.

‘The computers containing this information have now been recovered and we can confirm that the sensitive information they contained was not accessed between the time they were stolen and their recovery.’

The CPS said it was now demanding an ‘urgent explanation’ of the security arrangements that had been in place.

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Mr Vaz said he would be challenging CPS boss Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, over the security breach when she gives evidence to the Home Affairs Committee next month.

He said: ‘The public will be surprised that such sensitive information has been out-sourced in this way.’

Richard Scorer, a Manchester-based solicitor who represents child sex abuse victims in Rochdale, said he was ‘appalled and extremely concerned’ by the affair and raised fears it would deter future witnesses coming forward.

Greater Manchester police commissioner Tony Lloyd branded it ‘an unacceptable breach of security’, and called on the CPS to review the security arrangements.

Asked if witnesses were told to keep quiet about the theft, Greater Manchester Police insisted its officers had ‘not been briefed to request victims to not pass on this information’, and that the Force had been ‘entirely open and transparent’.

by Brendan Carlin

Abuse Victims Seek Help Safely With New App

Published March 27, 2013 by misty534

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For those at risk from domestic violence, seeking help has never been so easy, thanks to the plethora of online resources. Then again, online activity leaves behind an electronic trail that abusers can follow to intimidate or harm their victims.

That’s why researchers at Newcastle University in the UK have developed a ‘cleaner app’ that deletes or blocks any evidence that an at-risk person was seeking help online.

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“For someone living in fear of abuse, the very systems set up to help them can actually be used against them,” Budi Arief, Center for Cybercrime and Computer Security at Newcastle University, explained in a news release. “What our technology does is erase these electronic footprints, allowing people to seek help in safety without fear of reprisal.”

While the base app erases browsing history, the most interesting parts of the system are the use of self-destruct QR codes and NFC technology, which will be embedded on self-help fliers posted in public.

The QR symbols are embedded with single use URL codes that, when scanned with a smartphone, take the user directly to a support site. As the name indicates, the link will only direct its user to a support site once. Any subsequent attempts to gain access will be directed to a safe page, for example the BBC News or Google’s home page.

Another feature includes NFC tech being embedded into a flier or postcard. Positioned in public places, the support center info is only available while the user is standing close to the poster. Once they leave the area, the information won’t be accessible via the history or back button.

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These two features will be used in conjunction with the cleaner app. Once selected, the app selectively wipes clean the user’s digital footprints and deletes any trace of their search for support — including browser history entries, temporary Internet files and cookies — while leaving other e-trails intact.

“Our work has highlighted a vulnerable group whose need for online access is greater than most. These people are prevented from getting help, not through a lack of access or digital knowledge but through fear,” said Arief.

“Our hope is these technologies can be used to overcome this particular barrier and give more victims of domestic violence the confidence to seek help.”

 

 

by Susanne Borges/A.B./Corbis