Po­lice to lose ‘snoop­ing’ pow­ers

Forces will have to ask new reg­u­la­tor for in­ter­net data af­ter Euro­pean Court rul­ing that law is il­le­gal

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Ben Farmer

Min­is­ters are pre­par­ing to strip po­lice of sur­veil­lance pow­ers ruled il­le­gal by the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice. A con­sul­ta­tion will sug­gest that a new reg­u­la­tory body over­sees po­lice re­quests to look at sur­veil­lance data. It would also set a thresh­old of the se­ri­ous­ness of a case for use of sur­veil­lance pow­ers.

MIN­IS­TERS are pre­par­ing to strip po­lice of con­tro­ver­sial sur­veil­lance pow­ers ruled il­le­gal by the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice. A gov­ern­ment con­sul­ta­tion to be launched to­day will sug­gest that a new reg­u­la­tory body over­sees po­lice re­quests to look at sur­veil­lance data.

The Daily Tele­graph un­der­stands the con­sul­ta­tion pro­poses tak­ing the power to au­tho­rise data re­quests in se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime cases away from se­nior of­fi­cers and giv­ing the de­ci­sion to a body, un­der the aus­pices of the In­ves­ti­ga­tory Pow­ers Com­mis­sioner but funded by po­lice forces.

It would also set a thresh­old of whether a crim­i­nal case was deemed se­ri­ous enough for sur­veil­lance pow­ers, in most cases where a sus­pect could re­ceive at least six months in pri­son. Min­is­ters will also seek sug­ges­tions on whether there should be greater over­sight of the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ use of the data.

How­ever sources said min­is­ters be­lieved there was less pub­lic de­mand for reg­u­la­tion of the in­ter­cep­tion ac­tiv­i­ties by MI5, GCHQ, the Na­tional Crime Agency and MI6 be­cause of the threat from ter­ror­ism and or­gan­ised crime.

Theresa May’s sur­veil­lance laws were dealt a ma­jor set­back in De­cem­ber 2016 af­ter the Euro­pean Union court ruled that the bulk col­lec­tion of cit­i­zens’ in­ter­net brows­ing his­tory was il­le­gal un­der Euro­pean law.

The 2014 Data Re­ten­tion and In­ves­ti­ga­tory Pow­ers Act and its suc­ces­sor, the 2016 In­ves­ti­ga­tory Pow­ers Act, re­quired in­ter­net and phone com­pa­nies to keep their com­mu­ni­ca­tions data for a year and reg­u­late how po­lice and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies gain ac­cess.

The ECJ, how­ever, last year ruled that EU laws for­bid the “gen­eral and in­dis­crim­i­nate” re­ten­tion of in­ter­net data. The Gov­ern­ment has de­cided to try to com­ply with the ECJ rul­ing, even though Bri­tain is head­ing for Brexit.

Prof An­thony Glees, direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Buck­ing­ham, said some in­tel­li­gence al­lies such as Ger­many may be re­luc­tant to co­op­er­ate with the UK if it did not abide by the court.

Silkie Carlo, se­nior ad­vo­cacy of­fi­cer at Lib­erty, the civil rights or­gan­i­sa­tion, said: “We warned the Gov­ern­ment ... that the au­thor­i­tar­ian sur­veil­lance pow­ers in the In­ves­ti­ga­tory Pow­ers Act were un­law­ful. It should be a source of deep em­bar­rass­ment that, less than a year af­ter it passed, min­is­ters have had to launch a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ask­ing for help to make it com­ply with peo­ple’s ba­sic rights.”

A Home Of­fice spokesman said yes­ter­day: “We will be pub­lish­ing for con­sul­ta­tion our pro­posed re­sponse to the Court of Jus­tice of the Euro­pean Union’s rul­ing re­gard­ing the re­ten­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tions data to­mor­row. We will not com­ment on leaks or spec­u­la­tion.”

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