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We welcome the spirit of the Government’s amendments, which, as the noble and learned Lord said, seek to fulfil the commitment the Government made during the passage of the Bill in the Commons to introduce a clear and appropriate threshold for accessing internet connection records. The concern was that access should not be available in connection with non-serious crime. The threshold for serious crime appears workable and appropriate.
We welcome, too, the fact that specific offences such as stalking and harassment have been addressed and can lead to access to ICRs. However, we have continuing concerns around the definition of “relevant crime”, which we feel is too broad and could still lead to the use of ICRs in connection with crimes that would not be regarded as serious. Last April, the then Home Secretary told the shadow Home Secretary that restricting ICRs to serious crime would: hamper the ability of the police to investigate online stalking and harassment; disrupt police investigations of online grooming or the sending of sexual communications to a child; reduce the ability to investigate online fraud; hinder the ability to identify and disrupt the sale and distribution of illegal material online, including illegal weapons, counterfeit medicines or illegal drugs; and prevent the police from progressing investigations where there may be a threat to life, but where it is unclear whether a crime is involved—for example, locating a missing or suicidal child—because many of these activities would not meet the serious crime threshold.
We do not disagree with the intention set out in that communication from the Home Secretary to the shadow Home Secretary, but if the Government have a list of specific offences or types of offences which they feel fall below the serious crime threshold but should not be subject to a restriction on access to ICRs, perhaps that is a matter that needs further discussion about what should be included on the list or what should be covered. We wish to see the wording in the government amendment tightened further. We would want to work with the Government on this while the Bill is progressing through its stages in this House. I hope that the Minister, on behalf of the Government, will feel able to indicate that he is willing to have further discussions on this and the wording of the amendment in the light of our concerns about the apparent broad nature of the definition of “relevant crime”.