I told you that this was going to be a busy old week.
I have seen and read much utter crap in recent days about the Police use of RIPA against journalists as a ruse to smoke out their (journalists’) sources.
I can quite easily agree with the comments about ‘Dawn Raids’, I have long since thought they were not always necessary, and I’m absolutely certain that on some occasions it’s a tactic used purely to send a message, under other circumstances they may be vital. A balancing act, but the priority has to be securing the evidence, but Dawn Raids do not need to be the Norm, particularly for historical investigations.
The relationship between Press and Police has always been fragile and not destined to improve any time soon. I fear that this week it has descended to even lower levels with stories from Sean O’Neil (@TimesCrime) and the Beeb’s Danny Shaw (@DannyShawBBC).
Danny asks the question “Do Police Believe They Are Above The Law?”
Let me answer that, “No, I don’t believe that they do, nor are they and neither should they be”
My headline would be “Journalists and Politicians believe they should be above the law”
Let me be clear on this, NOBODY should be above the law or immune from investigation and prosecution.
Each Police Officer swears an oath similar to this;:
I (name) do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen in the office of Constable, without favour or affection, malice or ill will; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved, and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects and that while I continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.
Nowhere in this oath does it mention journalists and politicians being exempt from investigation.
Each sworn constable is an independent legal official; they are not agents of the police force, PCC or government. Each police officer has personal liability for their actions or inaction.
Sir Richard Mayne’s 9 Principles include this one;
“5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely
impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.”
To the best of my knowledge the modern Police Service still follows these nine principles, which do not seem to include an exemption for Press and Politicians.
RIPA applies to a wide-range of investigations in which private information might be obtained. Cases in which it applies include:
In a nutshell, broadly speaking, RIPA can be used by Police Officers investigating a CRIME
EVERY application for an authority under RIPA has to be recorded, submitted via Supervising Officers who will ensure that there are sufficient grounds for the authority to be granted.
RIPA does not give the Police, or any other Authority, powers to go on a ‘Fishing Expedition’ I.e. Let’s have a look at these journalists’ telephone records so that we can work out who their sources are. It MAY give Police powers to examine defined journalists’ telephone records in an attempt to identify who had unlawfully passed information to them. This must be an integral part of a criminal investigation.
The relevant Codes of Practice already contain these words of wisdom;
3.8 Before authorising applications for directed or intrusive surveillance, the authorising officer should also take into account the risk of obtaining private information about persons who are not subjects of the surveillance or property interference activity (collateral intrusion).
3.9 Measures should be taken, wherever practicable, to avoid or minimise unnecessary intrusion into the privacy of those who are not the intended subjects of the surveillance activity. Where such collateral intrusion is unavoidable, the activities may still be authorised, provided this intrusion is considered proportionate to what is sought to be achieved. The same proportionality tests apply to the likelihood of collateral intrusion as to intrusion into the privacy of the intended subject of the surveillance.
3.10 All applications should therefore include an assessment of the risk of collateral intrusion and details of any measures taken to limit this, to enable the authorising officer fully to consider the proportionality of the proposed actions.
If the Police Officers conducting such criminal investigation are prevented from doing so if a journalist or politician are involved, a side-effect of this could possibly be that Police Officers unlawfully selling information to the media would escape detection and prosecution. What would the Press make of that?
A suitable analogy might be the relationship between a Police Officer and a Registered Informant (CHIS). If there were suspicions that they were enjoying a corrupt relationship would it be acceptable to say “we can’t investigate that, there’s an Informant involved. We can’t compromise the identity of the Informant”? I’m pretty sure that The Times and the Beeb would be all over that like a rash.
Surely the sensible approach would be that Police Officers should be allowed to investigate allegations of crime, regardless of who may be involved and if that results in journalists, politicians or Police Officers being arrested then so be it. Of the utmost importance in this process is that such investigations are necessary, proportionate, recorded and authorised at the appropriate level. WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR.
Nobody should be beyond the reach of the law and immune from investigation, but those investigations must be carried out lawfully.
I hope that answers your question Danny.