Skip to main content

Surveillance

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 31 January 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many of the 440,000 personal communications surveillance authorisations recorded between June 2005 and March 2006 led directly to convictions. [HL1291]

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 provides that specified public authorities may obtain data about individuals' private communications only when necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate aim. Detecting crime is one such aim. That includes the making of arrests to secure convictions but equally includes the elimination of suspects and the tracing of witnesses.

Other aims for which data may lawfully be obtained include safeguarding national security, where arrests and convictions may not follow; safeguarding public safety, such as investigating the causes of rail and air accidents, and obtaining data in an emergency to prevent death or injury, such as tracing vulnerable missing children and people threatening self harm.

As part of the Interception of Communications Commissioner's oversight of public authorities’ conduct, his inspectors examine why data have been obtained and what has been achieved by obtaining the data.

We do not collect information about the outcomes of each instance. That would be a significant bureaucratic undertaking. But as part of the Interception of Communications Commissioner's oversight of public authorities, his inspectors do examine why data were obtained and what was been achieved by obtaining the data. The commissioner reports annually to Parliament.