Friday, October 13, 2006

JUSTICE calls for admissible intercepts

BugA new report from JUSTICE calls for communications intercept evidence to be made admissible in UK courts, and for judges rather than politicians to authorise interception (thanks, Dave!):

We conclude that the current ban is archaic, unnecessary and counter-productive. Outside the UK, intercept evidence has been used to convict Al-Qaeda cells in the United States following 9/11, the Five Godfathers of New York Crime, and war criminals before the International Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia. Due to various loopholes in the current ban, intercept evidence is sometimes used successfully even in the UK. For example, recordings and transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations were used to help convict Ian Huntley of the Soham murders in 2003.

The experience of other common law countries shows that the fears of the intelligence services that intercept evidence would lead to their interception capabilities being compromised are unfounded. Established common law principles of public interest immunity (‘PII’) work well in other countries to prevent the unnecessary disclosure of sensitive intelligence material, such as methods of interception and the identity of informants.

We recommend that the ban on intercept evidence be lifted, and that the government overhaul the existing legal framework so that interception warrants are granted by judges rather than by the Home Secretary. Although we avoid making specific recommendations on this point, we also favour the establishment of a single interception warrant for both intelligence and law enforcement purposes whose product is admissible in criminal proceedings, rather than have separate intelligence warrants under which interceptions would continue to be inadmissible.

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