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Lawmakers should grab red pen and let it RIPA on snoops law – experts

Updates to the snooping code of practice simply not enough

Legal experts have called for a full legislative review of the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) that goes "far beyond" updates to the codes of practice governing its use.

This week the Home Office published a code of practice for the use of covert surveillance under RIPA, and on Tuesday it also opened a consultation on the codes of practice around the acquisition and disclosure of communications data, and the retention of communications data.

"The new safeguards may go some way to helping protect our interests by creating a circumstance in which a local authority must have court approval for surveillance and can only carry out directed surveillance for particularly serious offences," said David Cook, cyber crime and data security solicitor at law firm Slater & Gordon.

"[However], we need specific legislation regarding the proliferation of intrusions into our digital privacy and, while the new guidance assists, we still have a long way to go," he added.

Earlier this week the Law Society and the Bar Council (the representative bodies for lawyers in England and Wales) also demanded new laws to stop police and security services from spying on meetings between lawyers and their clients.

"For many years the Law Society has called for a review of RIPA," said Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society. "The absence of explicit statutory protection for legal professional privilege remains a matter of serious concern to us."

Last week, the Home Affairs Committee report described RIPA as "not fit for purpose" with "law enforcement agencies failing to routinely record the professions of individuals who have had their communications data accessed under RIPA. The recording of information under RIPA is totally insufficient, and the whole process appears secretive and disorganised with information being destroyed afterwards."

The latest consultations close on 20 January 2015.®

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