Surveillance watchdog has 'no data' on police access to journalist’s phone records

The Interception of Communications Commissioner Office (IOCCO) has confirmed that it is to investigate whether police forces were overusing their powers to acquire communications data.

In a statement, the interception of communications commissioner confirmed it would investigate if police powers were being abused. 

The commitment to investigate was placed at the bottom of a web page offering background from the IOCCO as a response to media reports, where it stated:  “We are in the process of carrying out an Inquiry into whether there might be institutional overuse by police forces and law enforcement agencies of authorisations to acquire communications data. We will report on this inquiry when the investigation is complete.”

The news came after a week of controversy after it was revealed  police officers investigating the “Plebgate Scandal” had obtained the phone records of The Sun’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) rather than seeking a court order.

Under the provisions of RIPA police can demand telecommunication companies hand over call records for the: “prevention or detection of crime” as long as this is approved by a senior officer.

A report issued by the commissioner revealed that police and other authorities had used RIPA to obtain phone records over 500,000 times in 2013, which added up to over 9,000 requests a week. The commission added it had no data on how many of these requests related to journalists or their sources, and confirmed that it was usual practice not to inform people their phone records had been accessed.

Speaking to The Drum, the Commissioner’s Office confirmed that their investigation was not prompted by the Newton Dunn story and had been ongoing since February.

 The results will not be released until the publication of the commisions annual report, which is not due until 2015. 



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