Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

PSNI applied for 4,532 warrants to intercept communications in 2014

Published 03/02/2016

PSNI assistant chief constable Will Kerr said the force's power to intercept communications was used proportionately
PSNI assistant chief constable Will Kerr said the force's power to intercept communications was used proportionately

Police in Northern Ireland sought more than 4,500 warrants to intercept communications in 2014.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Will Kerr said the power, which can be used to monitor internet activities, was used proportionately.

Communications Commissioner Sir Anthony May is charged with reporting on the activities of public services to the Prime Minister and revealed extensive use of the power.

He said: "Overall the inspections carried out by my office show that the staff within the public authorities have a desire to comply with the legislation and to achieve high standards in the work that they carry out.

"There is a strong culture of compliance and of self reporting when things go wrong."

The intercept can include the manner in which, and by what method, a person or machine communicates with another person or machine.

It excludes what they say or what data they pass on within a communication, including text, audio and video, a Home Office code of practice said.

The PSNI applied for 4,532 warrants. The total number of notices and authorisations was 4,768, a report published by Sir Anthony disclosed.

The intercepts were carried out using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

Mr Kerr said: "Although we are unable to comment on individual cases, great care is taken to ensure RIPA is only used when it is lawful, necessary and proportionate and is subject to rigorous oversight."

Sir Anthony said his office continues to challenge public authorities so that privacy implications are always of foremost consideration while they are working to protect the public in the interests of national security, to save life or to prevent or detect crime.

He added: "There is however always room for improvement and the work that my office undertakes assists public authorities to keep their systems and their use of these intrusive powers under constant review."

He said the key challenges of the future were to ensure that the UK' s legislation governing interception and communications data techniques provided clarity and forseeability; adequate human rights protection; provisions for the retention, storage, access to, sharing of and destruction of material and data; and effective oversight mechanisms and rights.

"It is a considerable task, not least because of the global nature of the technologies that we are concerned with, but there have already been some positive steps forward."

Daniel Holder, deputy director of Belfast human rights organisation the Committee for the Administration of Justice said the headline figures themselves do not tell very much.

"Surveillance powers are a human rights issue globally, locally there have also been as many questions if not more over the regulation of other aspects of covert policing such as informant handling.

"It is notable that a number of key safeguards that were to be put in place here as part of the peace settlement still have not been implemented, including the Commissioner for Covert Law Enforcement in Northern Ireland recommended by the Patten Commission."

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph