Covert Policing Law Blog

Essays on Surveillance Law

Disclosure and Public Interest Immunity

There has been a huge amount of authoritative commentary on the issue of disclosure in the aftermath of “near misses” like the Liam Allan case. Sadly, in the absence of the scrutiny that followed his case and others, it is unlikely there would be any significant...

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Approaching individuals as potential Covert Human Intelligence Sources and the need to authorise under Part II, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: an overview of Sheridan v CC of Police Service Northern Ireland

Summary of facts Background Brian Sheridan was arrested in 2011. He was a passenger in a car with others and found in possession of a number of rifles and handguns. It was alleged he and his associates were on their way to bury the weapons as part of terrorist-related...

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Reflections on Love v National Crime Agency

Officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested Lauri Love during a search of his parent’s home on 25 October 2013. The alleged offences were under s 1(1) and (3) of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA 1990). He was released on police bail but in or around July...

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GCHQ and its Chamber of Secrets

It was reported on Sunday that GCHQ intervened to prevent the leak of the sixth instalment of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In response the spy agency said that it “didn’t comment on [its] defence against the dark arts”. The story was no doubt intended to...

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In a word: privacy and the Investigatory Powers Bill

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in its report in response to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill (the Bill) said, “Overall, the privacy protections are inconsistent and in our view need strengthening. We recommend that an additional Part be included in...

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Recruiting informants and radicalisation: legal issues

Stories that young men have been radicalised following attempts by the Security Service (MI5) to recruit them as informants (technically known as Covert Human Intelligence Sources, or as the former Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Andrew Legatt observed,...

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Defining Surveillance

In his one of his greatest novels, J M Coetzee wrote, “the masters of information have forgotten about poetry, where words may have a meaning quite different from what the lexicon says, where the metaphoric spark is always one jump ahead of the decoding function,...

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Lawful Surveillance

Arguably sections 27 and 80 are the most important provisions in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (there are similar provisions for Scotland and Jersey) but which have not received the consideration they deserve and there is little judicial guidance....

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Interception of Prison Telephone Calls

In R v Knaggs [2015] EWCA Crim 1007, a recent interim judgment, giving directions, the Court of Appeal identified the issues that arise out of the use by police and prosecuting authorities of prison intercept. The interception of prison communications may be lawful...

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Communications Data and Journalistic Sources

During the investigation in 2012, called Operation Alice, into what became known as “Plebgate”, the Metropolitan Police Service obtained a total of four authorisations for communications data targeting journalists working for The Sun newspaper for the purposes of...

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Private information and juveniles

Capturing the images of children, whether by the press or the state, is fraught with difficulty. The Supreme Court considered the issue recently in Re: J38 [2015] UKSC 42 but even it was unable to agree. Its importance in the operational planning of covert...

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On Secret Trials

On Secret TrialsJeremy Bentham said that secrecy was an instrument of conspiracy and ought never to be the system of regular government. The reason why can be no more eloquently captured than by Toulson LJ in the recent case of R (Guardian Newspapers) v City of...

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An Informer v A Chief Constable: a Source of real concern

Judgment in the recent case of An Informer v A Chief Constable [2012] EWCA Civ 197 appears to have been published with relatively little controversy. This is surprising, not because it is the principal judgment on the scope of the polices’ duty of care to Covert Human...

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