IOCCO: Police 'reckless' for using terrorism powers on journo sources

No regard for human rights, judicial approval

An inspection by the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO) into the targeting by Police Scotland of journalists' sources under anti-terrorism powers without a warrant has concluded the actions were committed with a disregard for human rights regulations, and were "reckless".

The new commissioner, Sir Stanley Burnton, announced in the role at the same time as the government released its draft Investigatory Powers Bill, stated that his office had discovered "Police Scotland sought communications data in order to determine either a journalist's source, or the communications of those suspected to have been acting as intermediaries between a journalist and a suspected source".

"[J]udicial approval was not obtained to acquire this communications data," noted the commissioner, who also found that the police's snooping did not give due regard to Human Rights legislation, and that two of the applications had been signed off by an officer who was not independent of the investigation.

"The failures identified can properly be viewed as reckless," stated Sir Stanley, who informed the individuals affected of how to engage with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in response.

Police Scotland are alleged to have targeted journalists at the Scottish Sunday Mail to identify a whistleblower in the force.

Police Scotland confirmed that it could confirm "that it did not adhere to the new guidelines covering access to communications data during a recent investigation into alleged serious breaches of information security".

"We also acknowledge the deficiencies in the applications themselves, which have been highlighted by IOCCO", stated the scotch plod, and the commissioner confirmed that Police Scotland have now established "significant measures in order to prevent any recurrence of such contraventions." ®

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