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Judges to rule on police requests for journalists' phone records

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The Home Office said that new legislation would be required after the general election in May


Judges to rule on police requests for journalists' phone records


Police to be told they need to obtain the permission of a judge if they want to obtain details of a journalist's phone calls or emails

The Telegraph
By Agency
21 February 2015

New instructions are to be issued to police requiring them to seek authorisation from a judge before they can gain access to a journalist's phone records and other communications data.

The Home Office said the measure was being introduced as an "interim solution" pending new legislation in the next parliament.

The move comes after Theresa May, the Home Secretary, accepted the findings of a review by the Interception of Communications Commissioner which strongly criticised the way that police had used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to access journalists' communications data.

Forces will now be told they must use the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which requires them to obtain the permission of a judge if they want to obtain details of a journalist's phone calls or emails.

At the same time the Government is to amend the Serious Crime Bill currently going through Parliament to ensure that a revised code of practice has "due regard to the public interest in protecting journalists sources".

But Home Office said that the scope of the bill was too limited to be used to change the law - in the way that the Liberal Democrats had proposed - and that new legislation would be required after the general election in May.

"A free press is fundamental to a free society. The Government has accepted in full the recommendations of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and we are determined to implement them as soon as is legally possible," a spokesman said.

"So we are legislating as far as possible now until a bill can be introduced in the next parliament which delivers the recommendations in full."

Lord Falconer, the former Labour lord chancellor who piloted Ripa through parliament, said that a long-term solution was required as "a matter of urgency".

"It is better than nothing but something much more dramatic needs to be done. I think the long-term solution has got to be primary legislation. It is a matter of urgency," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"It was never envisaged that that (Ripa) would be used by the police in the way that it has been used."

The review of the use of the Ripa surveillance powers was launched in October after alarm was expressed about incidents such as Scotland Yard accessing the phone records of Sun reporter Tom Newton Dunn to find who had leaked information on the Plebgate row.

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