Wasting police time – part II

Boxing Day’s news coverage on the hunting issue was ostensibly of the Labour Party and their ‘Back the Ban’ campaign launched by Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn. Oh, except in The Times, where instead they featured some crackpot story about the police not being able to investigate hunt crime when the film evidence has been supplied by hunt monitors.

A little digging and we discovered that this all stemmed from a letter sent by Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, to all Chief Constables in England and Wales informing them that a court judgment rules all such evidence ‘illegal’ on the basis that all covert surveillance must be authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) or else it falls foul of the Human Rights Act.

This was complete and utter nonsense, and the Crown Prosecution Service have now said so. In guidance issued just before the weekend, they have said that:

Third parties such as the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) often conduct surveillance of hunting meetings and other rural activities. Such surveillance is conducted for their own purposes although they do frequently pass surveillance footage to the police where they believe that a crime has been committed. It has been suggested in some quarters that such surveillance should not be carried unless an authorisation has been obtained by the police under Part II of RIPA 2000 and/or Part III of the Police Act 1997.

Where covert surveillance is undertaken by a public authority which is likely to result in that authority obtaining private information, an authorisation should be sought under Part II of RIPA if the surveillance is to be deemed to be lawful. If the conduct of the surveillance involves entry on or interference with another’s property, an authorisation should be sought under Part III of the Police Act 1997.

No authorisation under RIPA or the Police Act needs to be sought where an NGO such as LACS conducts surveillance for its own purposes. RIPA and the Police Act regulate the activities of public authorities so that those activities do not offend against Article 8 of ECHR.    (Emphasis added.)

No clearer could they have made it. This latest attempt by the Countryside Alliance to discourage the police from the proper enforcement of the Hunting Act is tantamount to the National Union of Burglars telling police that burglary’s no longer a crime. If they had been right, it would have meant the equivalent of Neighbourhood Watch no longer being able to ‘watch’.

Hunting is a crime. The League aims to expose hunting criminals and bring them to justice. We’re used to all the tricks being used to try and stifle justice, but we won’t be deterred.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    gilesbradshaw said,

    I think you are a little confused. What the CPS are saying is that you can conduct your covert surveillance but the police cannot rely on it.

  2. 2

    Giles, the CPS have not said that at all.

    As expected, the Countryside Alliance are spinning hard. Look at their blog and read their story and you’d think – in the words of Tim Bonner on Twitter – that the anti’s are “stuffed”. Quite the opposite is true.

    What the Alliance have failed to include in their selective quoting from the CPS guidance is the following sentence:

    “However, no authorisation [under RIPA] would be required where the police neither initiate nor encourage the surveillance even though they may be aware of it – see Rosenberg [2006] EWCA Crim 6.”

    Given that the police neither initiate or encourage the surveillance we carry out, it very clearly does not apply.

    Onwards and upwards.

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