Police Scotland using ‘obscure’ snooping powers

A Police Scotland control room. The force is using 'obscure' surveillance laws extensively, according to a new report. Picture: Julie Bull
A Police Scotland control room. The force is using 'obscure' surveillance laws extensively, according to a new report. Picture: Julie Bull
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POLICE Scotland is making extensive use of “obscure” surveillance laws which should be immediately overhauled, a landmark report has found.

Mr Anderson called for a “clean slate” in the approach to intrusive powers used by authorities to combat terrorism and serious crime, saying the current framework is “fragmented” and “obscure”.

The 300-page report called for a “comprehensive and comprehensible” new law was needed to replace “the multitude of current powers”.

In its submissions, Police Scotland said its was satisfied with the current arrangements for the authorisation of interceptions.

The force said its ability to access communications data “directly affected the outcome...establishing the whereabouts of individuals and saving lives” in over half of all “threat to life” incidents in Scotland in the past three months.

In March The Scotsman revealed that Police Scotland had made more than 11,000 applications for communications data last year under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).

The legislation allows the authorities to ask for the “who”, “when” and “where” of phone or e-mail communication, but not its content. Police applications are made to a designated officer within the force.

Glasgow City Council was among Scottish local authorities using the legislation.

Publishing his report today, Mr Anderson said: “Modern communications networks can be used by the unscrupulous for purposes ranging from cyber-attack, terrorism and espionage to fraud, kidnap and child sexual exploitation. A successful response to these threats depends on entrusting public bodies with the powers they need to identify and follow suspects in a borderless online world.

“But trust requires verification. Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with international human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards.

“The current law is fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge and variable in the protections that it affords the innocent. It is time for a clean slate. This Report aims to help Parliament achieve a world-class framework for the regulation of these strong and vital powers.”