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HOME OFFICE CONSULTS ON RIPA CODE OF PRACTICE

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Guidance on the enhanced procedures that must be followed before ...
Guidance on the enhanced procedures that must be followed before

access to communications data can take place under the Regulation of

Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), was issued for public

consultation by the home office today.

The draft Code of Practice on Accessing Communications Data will

govern the conduct of law enforcement and public bodies when

obtaining information relating to the use of postal or

telecommunication services, for example telephone billing

information.

RIPA updates and increases the safeguards on obtaining communications

data. In future, in order to obtain data an authorised person must

meet a test of necessity and consider the conduct involved to be

proportionate. Data may only be sought if necessary for specific

purposes. For example:

- in the interests of national security

- for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or preventing

disorder

- in the interests of public safety

Home office minister Bob Ainsworth said:

'Communications data can be an important tool in the fight against

serious crime, for example providing evidence or intelligence on the

activities of paedophiles or narcotics smugglers. It is vital that

law enforcement and other public bodies can access communications

data, ensuring that criminals do not have a technological advantage

over those trying to enforce the law.

'Equally, we must ensure that such access is proportionate to the

threat and highly regulated, and RIPA introduces, for the first time,

strong statutory safeguards to govern this. For an action to be

necessary in a democratic society it must pursue a legitimate policy

aim, fulfil a pressing social need and above all be proportionate to

that policy aim.

'As we implement the Act's provisions, we are working with

communication services providers to ensure that they are enacted in

partnership with them. Today's consultation reiterates our commitment

to consult in this important area. We welcome comments on all aspects

of this draft code from industry, law enforcement agencies and anyone

else who has a view on its implementation.'

The consultation period on the Code ends on 2 November 2001, and a

summary of responses will be published on the home office website (see below).

NOTES

1. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act received royal assent

on 28 July 2000, with the major part of the legislation implemented

on 2 October 2000. Further parts are being enacted in consultation

with communication services providers over the coming months.

2. RIPA was introduced to ensure that the use of investigatory

powers such as covert surveillance by the law enforcement, security

and intelligence agencies are closely regulated and used in

accordance with the Human Rights Act and European Convention on

Human Rights. RIPA also updates current legislation on the use of

these powers by the law enforcement, security and intelligence

agencies to cover technologies which have been developed in recent

years.

3. Copies of the Draft Code of Practice for Chapter II of Part I of

the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is available from

the home office website.

4. Communications data, eg telephone billing information, is an

essential tool in the fight against serious crime in the modern

communications environment, Later this year RIPA will be put this

access onto a formal, regulated footing.

5. Communications data does not include the contents of any

communication itself, and Chapter II Part I of RIPA governs access

only to communications data. For example, a list of telephone

numbers can be reasonably seen as just that and therefore is

defined as communications data, it does not give any indication of

what might have been said during a conversation.

6. What was said during a particular communication, eg a telephone

conversation, is defined as communications content - it remains

strict policy that the content of communications can only be

obtained under an interception warrant personally authorised by the

secretary of state. This principle is firmly reiterated in the

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

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