Joint Committee on Human Rights press notice no. 2

Session 2006-07, 23 November 2006

RELAXING THE BAN ON THE ADMISSIBILITY OF INTERCEPT EVIDENCE: CALL FOR EVIDENCE

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) intends to conduct a short inquiry into possible ways of relaxing the current statutory prohibition on the admissibility of intercept evidence.

Intercept evidence is of great importance in identifying terrorist and other criminal suspects. At present, however, it cannot be used to bring those suspects to trial because of the statutory prohibition on the admissibility of such material in s. 17 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The UK is the only country in the world, except Ireland, which prohibits the admissibility of intercept evidence in court. In other common law countries, such as the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, intercept evidence is regularly relied on in criminal trials.

Recently, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police have all indicated their view that the current blanket ban should be relaxed to enable such material to be used in prosecutions. In its recent report, Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights: Prosecution and Pre-Charge Detention, the JCHR concluded that the ban on the use of intercept should now be removed and attention turned to ways of relaxing the ban. The Government is currently conducting a review of how the ban could be relaxed. To date, however, there has been no parliamentary investigation of the ways in which this could be done.

Call for evidence

The Committee would welcome evidence, not on whether the ban on the admissibility of intercept evidence should be relaxed, but on how to do so. In particular it welcomes views on the following questions:

€ What are the main practical considerations to be taken into account when devising a legal regime for the admissibility of intercept?

€ What safeguards should apply?

€ Would the ordinary disclosure rules need modification, and if so how?

€ What would be the role played by the law of public interest immunity?

€ What is the relevance of recent technological developments?

€ Do private providers of telecommunications services have any particular views about how the prohibition should be relaxed?

The Committee would also welcome detailed views on potential means of addressing the problem, including by reference to the approach of other countries, particularly other common law jurisdictions.

The Committee would welcome written evidence from interested individuals or organisations on any of these matters, to reach the Committee by the end of January 2007.

Submissions should be addressed to Nick Walker, Commons Clerk of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA. Electronic submission is acceptable, but a signed hard copy should also be sent. In any event, witnesses are asked wherever possible to accompany hard copy by an electronic version, preferably in Word format, and e-mailed to [email protected]

Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed, placed on the Internet or circulated by the Committee at any stage. You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege.

Further information on the Joint Committee is available on its website at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/hrhome.htm.

THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ARE:

Mr Andrew Dismore MP (Labour, Hendon) (Chairman) Lord Bowness (Conservative)

Mr Douglas Carswell MP (Conservative, Harwich) Lord Campbell of Alloway (Conservative)

Mary Creagh MP (Labour, Wakefield) Lord Judd (Labour)

Nia Griffith MP (Labour, Llanelli) Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)

Dr Evan Harris MP (Liberal Democrat, Oxford West & Abingdon) Lord Plant of Highfield (Labour)

Mr Richard Shepherd MP (Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills) Baroness Stern (Cross-Bencher)

Clerks of the Committee: Mr Nick Walker (House of Commons) 020 7219 2797 and Mr Bill Sinton (House of Lords) 020 7219 5358

ENQUIRIES: 020 7219 2797/2467 FAX: 020 7219 8393 E-MAIL: [email protected]

HOMEPAGE: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights.cfm