IMAGES of victims on a sex offender’s laptop will be deleted by Dorset Police.

Earlier this month, Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill launched a petition after it was revealed that the laptop of a sex offender would be returned, still containing photographs of a victim.

Dorset Police has taken legal advice and will remove the images at the request of the victim.

Officers said the equipment was seized in the initial stages of the investigation, but was not used evidentially at court as it contained no indecent images or other evidence of criminality.

In such cases, current legislation says the police should return the equipment to its owner in its original condition.

But the Force believes that to return images of the victims to the offender would be incompatible with the victims’ right to respect for their private lives under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Detective Inspector Steve Symms, of Bournemouth CID, said: “From the start we have been exploring all of the options available to us to refuse the return of the images. As we said we would, we have sought legal advice regarding this issue.

“We have decided to delete the images of the victims from the laptop and other equipment before returning these items to the prison, to be held until the offender’s release. The legislation hasn’t changed, however, following legal advice, the Force is confident that taking this course of action is the right thing to do.

“We will always make victims’ needs paramount and are prepared to defend our decision if necessary, rather than further exacerbate their suffering.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill added: “I am pleased to hear that common sense has prevailed in this case.

“Both the Chief Constable and I share the view that victims must be put first.

“I will continue to lobby for change in this area and I encourage members of the public to sign the government e-petition that calls for the legislation to be re-considered.”

The PCC’s e-petition can be viewed here.