More than 120,000 requests for communications data by police forces

shutterstock_42647761It appears that the press have finally started to understand the intrusive nature of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, for both innocent members of the public and journalists.

As part of our written evidence submitted to the Joint Committee on Draft Communications Data Bill in 2012, we submitted figures obtained through he Freedom of Information Act, highlighting police forces’ use of RIPA to access communications data for the period 2009-12. The figures highlighted that there were more than 120,000 requests for communications data by police in the year 2011-12.

We are re-publishing that information today, and it can be accessed here.

The significant variations in the level of use of communications data and the variations in the numbers of requests internally rejected starkly highlights a clear issue around training and education within forces about making best use of information available, where necessary and proportionate, and also raises questions about the consistency of oversight. Also interestingly, only Humberside Police was able to provide us with a breakdown of the offence categories it has used communications data for.

The Government needs to urgently address the fact that the Interception of Communications Commissioner has warned that spying powers are being over-used by some police forces. Quite simply, if the police can’t get it right with the powers they already have then it is completely irresponsible for the Home Office to be planning on increasing those powers. The inadequacy and inconsistency of the records being kept by public authorities about how they are using these powers is woefully inadequate. Correcting this would not require new laws so it should not wait until after the election.

If the Government fails to address these serious points, we can already know that there will be many more innocent members of the public who will be wrongly spied on and accused. This is simply unacceptable.