We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I apologise if I misunderstood the reference to GCHQ and the National Crime Agency and the way in which that was phrased. I ought to declare that I am a former non-executive director of the National Crime Agency. I have been very affected in my thinking on this by the extent to which every law enforcement agency that I have spoken to, in particular the National Crime Agency, seems to believe that this is a very necessary power to enable them to have the evidential ability to pursue serious crime. That is where the distinction lies between the intelligence agencies, which are not seeking this as an evidential tool, and the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement bodies, which see it as an evidential necessity. Depending on a relationship between the NCA and GCHQ within the National Crime Agency seems an unlikely way around this. If there is an evidential requirement, we should put that in the Bill and provide it to law enforcement, rather than relying on GCHQ to provide it by some particular piece of machinery within the NCA, because that would not then be available to all those who might need it within law enforcement.
This is also relevant in terms of why, or the extent to which, other countries have not gone down this road. There is plenty of evidence that the United Kingdom has been considerably more successful, particularly in the pursuit and prosecution of paedophile crime online, than a number of other jurisdictions. That is partly because we have provided appropriate powers to law enforcement to be able to pursue this. The UK has been much more successful in terms of prosecution figures for very similar situations to those facing some European countries. We should continue to provide the powers that enable the UK to pursue those sorts of crimes, which are at the moment an absolute wave hitting the law enforcement community. If we do not provide it with the powers, we will leave a situation where very many people who have committed online paedophile crime are not prosecuted. From my point of view, that certainly does not seem a satisfactory way forward.
I am also slightly cautious about the argument that people can always get round this and that anyone applying their best security would not get caught. Almost all investigation, whether intelligence or criminal, relies on those who are criminals or threats to our security not being as good at what they are doing as they hoped. To say that we should not introduce powers because they are not infallible and that if someone applied all security measures they might be able to get around them would mean that we would provide very few powers to either the intelligence services or law enforcement agencies, because someone somewhere might be able to avoid them. Most people, most of the time, do not apply all the security that they could when they are undertaking either national security threats or crime. That is why we can catch them. We should provide as many powers as we can to catch these people before they damage us, and prosecute them afterwards.