Posted by Austin Morris on  UTC 2018-05-23 08:23 Updated on UTC 2018-06-06

Sooner or later we all get to an age when the accusation that you pounced on some vulnerable female/male and had your despicable way with her/him will just cause people to burst out laughing. Quite hurtful, really – it should be a hate crime.

Until then, though, you need to take precautions: a) give up pouncing on vulnerable people; b) if, hand on heart, you haven't pounced on one, make sure you can prove your innocence. This post can't help you with a), but it can with b).

For in the UK, yet another young man recently lost a couple of years of his life as a result of a false rape accusation. Yet another case in which the police or the prosecution sat on a social media history which, if read, would have immediately cleared the accused.

How does this happen?

On arrest the police will immediately deprive the suspect of phone, laptop and/or desktop. The accused will have to reveal to them all his passwords. All devices will be searched for anything that furthers the case – browser history, cache contents, images etc. If you like visiting interesting websites you had better find some method of doing that without leaving tracks. In this situation, the police are not your friends – quite the opposite in fact. Their current motto is: 'always believe the victim'.

Several recent cases have shown that any evidence that hinders the prosecution may even be hidden from the defence.

During the two years and longer that the legal process can take, the accused and his lawyers have no access to the confiscated devices or to existing email or social media accounts. Even if the accused can remember that there are social media messages and postings that would exonerate him immediately, he has no access. Not only are the devices seized but the accounts are blocked. Recent cases all have in common that the police and/or the prosecution are remarkably unwilling to allow the accused access to his own data.

That is where you need to prepare. The chances of this happening to a blameless person are slim – perhaps in lottery dimensions. But the effects of a lottery win are so life-changing that they lead so many to make their small weekly bet despite the miserable odds. Similarly, the effects of a false rape or sexual assault allegation are so life-changing that it is worth the innocent investing the little bit of effort to protect himself. If your life brings you in contact with potential accusers, the odds shorten in proportion.

John William Waterhouse R.A., Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896. Image: ©Manchester City Galleries.

John William Waterhouse R.A., Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896. At the beginning of this year one of the staff of Manchester Art Gallery had a feminist rush of blood to the head and removed the painting from display, ostensibly to promote a discussion about the role of women in art (or something of the sort). The men viewing this painting will not be slow to notice that it is in fact the nymphs that are leading poor Hylas on here. Let's hope the lad has taken our advice and kept his data secure. Image: ©Manchester City Galleries. [The prurient can click on the image to open a larger image in a separate tab 1200 x 721 px]

Be prepared

Men can take two simple measures to protect themselves: store email, SMS and social media backups on a USB-stick ('thumb drive') and leave that with a reliable friend or relative. If you wait until the moment the SWAT team is bashing down your door, you are going to have to be inventive. (No, that will be the first place they will look.)


Firstly, sensible men will preserve their email data and have an independent email account. If you use a mail client on a laptop or desktop, you should ensure that all your emails are archived offline and backed up properly. The way you do this varies with your circumstances and the client you use. Look it up and do it (it's usually a two minute job to perform such a backup). Save the offline backup also to your USB-stick.

Keep the access URL and password for your independent email account in your head and/or in a text file on the USB-stick. Use a realistic but fake name for the account-name. Use a modern, long, multi-word password – e.g. 'in xanadu did kubla khan' – not an old-fashioned scrambler – e.g. 'AKwtyE(z,$6w' – that the cops will find written on a Post-It sticker on your fridge door.

After the cops have let you walk back home in the rain to your wrecked front door and overturned furniture, you can make yourself a nice cup of tea and spend ten minutes importing all your archived mails back into your new system. They can't touch you for it.

Social media

Secondly, save your social media life. Nearly all social media platforms offer a backup feature (for examples, see here, but the web is full of suggestions). Since the backups may take a few days to be delivered, doing this once a month may be the right frequency. If you live dangerously, perhaps more frequently would be wise.

The same advice applies particularly to SMS messages. Find out how to save these off your phone or from your SMS service provider into an independent backup on your USB-stick.

Whether you leave the backups supplied by the social media platforms on a computer or not, you should always copy them onto your USB-stick.

For those who keep their lives on a single smartphone or laptop, offline backups are very good things to have anyway.


Using a backup device means that the accused may need only an hour or two after the total data wipeout of an arrest to reconstruct his life. Time well spent. His lawyer will be particularly grateful. Legal note: the backups the accused has made are probably not in themselves acceptable as forensic evidence, but they are an important support in preparing a defence.

One last tip. Depending on the circumstances, the accused will probably be banned from any normal form of life in order to avoid further contact with his anonymous accuser. He should have a project ready for a period of enforced idleness, for example learning Italian, practising origami or working on his Rubik's Cube technique. Every cloud has a silver lining!

None of this advice is in furtherance of crime, none of it will aid the guilty – probably just the opposite, in fact – but it might be a life- and reputation-saver for the innocent. Think on.

Update 24.05.2018

Another day, another lottery winner

You think our piece was written in jest? Think again – only one day later we read:

Father-of-two, 53, spent 'torturous' EIGHT MONTHS in jail over false rape claims after police withheld vital phone messages

  • Robert Adlington was falsely accused of rape and other charges last year
  • He was repeatedly denied bail, locked up in Nottingham prison for eight months
  • Police didn't turn over racy text messages that proved the sex was consensual
  • Case was thrown out by a judge in January when the texts were finally disclosed
  • Mr Adlington says his life is ruined and he lost he business, house and reputation

It may take you a couple of hours to set the protection system up, a trivial amount for a USB stick and five minutes a week to keep the data up to date. What are you waiting for?

Update 06.06.2018

The lottery numbers are in: 47 cases stopped because of 'non-disclosure'. Out of 3,637 reviewed. Good betting odds: 1 in 77.

The stopped cases revealed today included five where disclosure was the primary reason why the case had to be stopped.

In the remaining 42 cases there were additional reasons including communications data such as text messages, emails and social media being examined too late; or new evidence emerging after charge.

A total of 14 defendants were being held in custody at the time the decision was made to stop their cases.

Note that these were just ongoing cases that were stopped. Historical cases of unsafe or incorrect verdicts are much more difficult to overturn. Furthermore:

Other cases have been hit since the review began. Two weeks ago, parliamentary aide Richard Holden blasted an 'appalling' police investigation after he was cleared of groping a Westminster colleague.

Today, he insisted the cases stopped by the review were just the 'tip of the iceberg'.

Mr Holden tweeted: 'What about all the cases, like mine, where police just didn't pursue 'reasonable lines of inquiry' to get evidence?'

Thank goodness we can always rely on a high-ranking British copper – a 'Disclosure Lead', even – to come up with the magisterial summary:

Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Prior, Disclosure Lead for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), said: 'We've got to realise that this is about real people.

If you want to savour the rest of his brain-dead platitudes you'll have to read the newspaper article.

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