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  1. Media Law
October 16, 2014

MPs back motion calling for action to stop police using RIPA to find journalists’ sources

By William Turvill

A dozen MPs have so far supported a motion expressing concern over police use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to find journalists's sources. (Picture: Reuters)

Proposed by Labour's John McDonnell yesterday, the Early Day Motion now has the backing of 11 other members from all major parties.

It calls on the Government to "take urgent steps to legislate to ensure there are protections for professions whose communications must be subject to strict confidentiality".

Peter Bottomley (Conservative), Ronnie Campbell (Labour), Martin Caton (Labour), Tracey Crouch (Conservative), Mark Durkan (Social Democratic and Labour), Jonathan Edwards (Plaid Cymru), Mike Hancock (independent), Kate Hoey (Labour), Kelvin Hopkins (Labour), John Leech (Liberal Democrat) and Caroline Lucas (Green) have all put their names to the motion.

Separately, Labour MPs Meg Hillier and Ben Bradshaw, the former culture secretary, have supported Press Gazette's Save Our Sources campaign, which calls on the Interception of Communications Commissioner to prevent police forces from using RIPA to obtain journalists' phone records and expose sources. It has been signed by more than 1,200 journalists and press freedom campaigners.

The motion "welcomes the Interception of Communications Commissioner's new inquiry [set up in response to the Save Our Sources campaign] that will be asking all chief constables how many applications under RIPA have been granted since 2000 to access journalists' communications, and calls on these findings to be made public".

The Early Day Motion says:

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That this House is gravely concerned about recent reports that police forces have used powers contained in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to access journalists' sources and materials; notes that unlike requests made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 there is no public record of these requests or their frequency, extent or even the existence of these applications, and there is no judicial oversight or independent process to grant permission to use these powers; further notes and welcomes the Interception of Communications Commissioner's new inquiry that will be asking all chief constables how many applications under RIPA have been granted since 2000 to access journalists' communications, and calls on these findings to be made public; shares the view of Gavin Millar QC that the use of such powers contravenes Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of expression that enshrine the rights of journalists and news organisations; shares the concern of the National Union of Journalists and other press freedom and privacy campaigners that this constitutes an attack on the press which will make whistleblowers reluctant to speak to journalists and also make it more difficult to report in the public interest; and therefore calls on the Government to take urgent steps to legislate to ensure there are protections for professions whose communications must be subject to strict confidentiality

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