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TOUGHER SAFEGUARDS FOR INTRUSIVE SURVEILLANCE: HOWARD

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The government has announced proposals to further strengthen the safeguards on police and customs use of intrusive ...
The government has announced proposals to further strengthen the safeguards on police and customs use of intrusive surveillance.

Home secretary Michael Howard said that the responsibility and accountability of chief officers would be maintained under the proposed changes to the Police Bill, which will be put forward as amendments during its passage through the Commons.

Under the proposals:

the initial authorisation will remain the responsibility of the Chief police officer; but prior approval from a commissioner will be required, except in urgent cases, if the operation involves intrusion into people's homes, offices or hotel bedrooms, or there are reasonable grounds for thinking that the operation could affect legal, journalistic or medical privilege in urgent cases chief officer authorisations will take effect without prior approval but the chief officer will have to apply for approval as soon as reasonable practicable and specify why he could not do so before.

The commissioner will approve the operation if he is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the action is likely to be of substantial value in the prevention or detection of serious crime and that what the action seeks to achieve could not reasonably be achieved by other means.

Mr Howard said:

'I believe these proposals meet the reasonable concerns which have been expressed about the bill and - crucially - maintain the responsibility and accountability of chief officers.

'Their experience and expertise is essential if we are to bring drug dealers, kidnappers and other perpetrators of serious crime to justice.

'They will remain accountable to the courts for their actions and will not have their decisions second-guessed.

'The additional safeguards I am proposing today provide effective scrutiny of these decisions.'

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