Surveillance police face being named




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 10 September 2003

Police forces that fail to abide by legal procedures during secret surveillance of suspected criminals may be named by the authorities, it was announced yesterday.

About 2,500 warrants authorising police to break into buildings were issued in 2002, a slight fall on the previous two years. But the watchdog responsible for making sure police stay within the law has said some are still breaking the rules.

Sir Andrew Leggatt, the chief surveillance commissioner, issued a report on “intrusive surveillance” which warned that bad practices had not been stamped out yet.

He wrote that “good practices are now far commoner than bad”, but that “it may also be necessary to name [police forces] that remain notable for their bad practices”.

These ranged from “inadequate applications and authorisations” for intrusion into a property to ignorance of the laws governing police powers of intrusion.

The report also assessed how local authorities performed in accordance with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which gives them the power to investigate fraud and other financial crimes. The commission was particularly critical of several local authorities in Wales.

“A central grip was lacking in several authorities, and one did not address its Ripa responsibilities until faced with an inspection,” the report said. “Overall, policies, procedures and training attracted more criticism than praise.”

The report said the most widely used of police powers was that of breaking into property, with drugs-related investigations dominating the statistics. It added that there had been a fall in “urgent intrusions” which do not need a senior officer’s approval, but this was due to a better understanding of the Ripa legislation.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.