Paedophile's abuse images "cannot be deleted", police say

Dorset Police say they cannot delete abuse images from a paedophile's laptop Photo: Dorset Police

A self-confessed paedophile could get his hands on intimate photos of a young girl he abused because police officers have refused to delete them from his confiscated laptop before it is returned, human rights campaigners have said.

The man, who was jailed in 2013 for nine years after admitting a string of sex offences, including assaulting a child under the age of 13 by penetration, has formally requested a laptop and a mobile telephone are handed back, according to Liberty, who represent the young victim and her family.

Photos of the victim dressed in swimwear and leotards are on the computer - but

Dorset Police said they can not delete them as they are not legally classified as indecent or prohibited.

As a result, the sex offender, who is in his fifties but cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, will have access to a large number of personal photos of the girl when he is released from jail.

The victim's mother said: "I am 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.

"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?"

Liberty has argued this would breach articles three and eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect against inhuman treatment and invasion of privacy respectively.

In a letter to Dorset Police, the human rights campaigners say the prospect of having the photos returned to the abuser is "causing the girls a significant amount of distress".

The group warns it would be a "an enormous violation of their dignity and personal integrity" if the pictures are handed back.

Liberty add that the abuse has caused the victim to suffer "enormous psychological harm" and she eats very little, self-harms frequently and is at risk of suicide.

Rosie Brighouse, legal officer at Liberty, said: "Not until the Human Rights Act could victims assert their rights in the British Courts - and Liberty is more than ready to do that on behalf of this family.

"We urge the police to protect these victims' dignity - it's surely common sense that these vulnerable girls aren't degraded further?"

In a reply to Liberty, Dorset Police explain their "present options" are limited as the legislation used to seize the phone and computer requires officers to return the property.

"Furthermore it would be unlawful for police officers to alter the computer and phone's memories by removing the disputed photographs before returning them," the force added.