Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 2:30 pm, 7th June 2016

The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right, and I draw on my own experience when I say that in giving power to public authority in this way it is important that we should be as specific and prescribed as possible.

To draw on my experience, I recall the passage of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. At that time, I was a procurator fiscal depute in Aberdeen and one of the innovations introduced in the Act was the ability of a prosecutor to comment on previous convictions before a jury in Scotland. I have no doubt that at that time all sorts of undertakings were given at the Dispatch Box, but when we as prosecutors—and, I like to think, fairly measured prosecutors in the public interest—saw that provision, the discussion did not centre around how the undertakings had been given at the Dispatch Box but how we could use it, its extent, where the boundaries would lie and what would constitute a step over the line and a step just inside it. There were always some in the office who were quite keen for the line to be a little bit elastic.

That is a much more trivial example, because of course it was a measure for which there would have been obvious and immediate judicial scrutiny. If any depute were to overstep the mark in court, it would be immediately obvious and they would be pulled up on it. There will not be the same scrutiny, there is not the same oversight and we ask a great deal of those who serve in our security services if we give them such a wide range of powers with so little definition. The lack of definition, the lack of proportionality and the lack of necessity underpin my concerns, which, I think, are shared in other parts of the House.