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Intercept as Evidence

Volume 522: debated on Wednesday 26 January 2011

The lawful interception of communications is a vital tool for tackling the threat posed by terrorism and other serious crime. The coalition Government are committed to building on this by seeking to find a practical way to allow the use of intercept evidence in court.

The issues are complex. Because of this a first step has been to review previous analysis, including that in the Privy Council review (Cm 7324) and in “Intercept as Evidence a Report” (Cm 7760). Having done so, the Government are now in a position to set out next steps.

As recognised in the Privy Council review the state has an overriding duty to protect the public, including from threats such as international terrorism and serious organised crime. Bringing prosecutions against and securing convictions of offenders is an important means of doing so. Equally, the effective use of intercept as intelligence already makes a vital contribution to public protection and to national security more widely.

Therefore, the programme of work to be undertaken will focus on assessing the likely balance of advantage, cost and risk of a legally viable model for use of intercept as evidence compared to the present approach. The intention is to provide a report back to Parliament during the summer.

Recent work on intercept as evidence has benefited significantly from the experience of the Advisory Group of Privy Counsellors, comprising the right hon. Sir John Chilcot, the right hon. and noble Lord Archer of Sandwell, my noble Friend, the right hon. Lord Howard of Lympne and the right hon. Sir Alan Beith MP. I am pleased to be able to confirm that the members of the advisory group have, at my request and that of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, agreed to continue to provide assistance and oversight.