back to article IOCCO: Police 'reckless' for using terrorism powers on journo sources

An inspection by the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO) into the targeting by Police Scotland of journalists' sources under anti-terrorism powers without a warrant has concluded the actions were committed with a disregard for human rights regulations, and were "reckless". The new commissioner, Sir …

  1. Joefish
    Facepalm

    So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

    If only Nixon's people had thought of that one, back in the day...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

      They actually went one better as I recall.. "If the President does it, it's not illegal.".

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Duhfish Re: So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

      "...break the law....." Please try reading the article and actually comprehending the content. The coppers didn't break any laws, the commission is saying they used legal powers meant for anti-terrorism in a non-terrorism investigation.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Duhfish So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

        Up vote for you Matt.

        Wait, what!?

        But he's right people - the police didn't break the law.

        AND THAT'S THE PROBLEM.

        Now, that's where Matt and I may disagree but arguing this issue based on an assertion that police have broken the law is unhelpful as it's so easy to refute: no, they haven't.

        The problem is that the laws, as written, provide such sweeping latitude to law enforcement that they can pretty much do whatever the hell they want. And we know, from experience, that even when they are found out, the hierarchy nearly always backs the officers to the hilt. As do politicians.

        The point is that, while the majority of police officers and good, upstanding people, you simply CANNOT trust them as a whole because the vast power they are given means that it only takes one to thoroughly impact someone's life. And, unfortunately, you most definitely cannot trust the police force to, well, police itself either so there is next-to no deterrent for those officers who do decide to abuse their powers in this way.

        The only way - the only way - to ensure that these laws are not misused is to write the laws to specifically restrict what is and is not allowed and under what circumstances and with what authorisation and to clearly lay down that actions that fall outside of those specific criteria are breaches of the law.

        Of course, you can't really stop misuse completely but strict, clear laws with well-defined terms will go a long way.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Duhfish So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

          The only way - the only way - to ensure that these laws are not misused is to write the laws to specifically restrict what is and is not allowed and under what circumstances and with what authorisation and to clearly lay down that actions that fall outside of those specific criteria are breaches of the law.

          Exactly! Have an upvote!

          Many of us have been arguing this for a long time. If a law is written to help combat terrorism or find paedophiles the powers that be should specifically restrict the powers to that use in the law. If they don't, we get abuses like this and many more. Of course, the police can still abuse them, but they would be breaking the law if they could not justify their use under the strict restrictions within the law.

          Writing these laws with no (or so few) restrictions on their use is practically encouraging their use outside their stated purpose. It leads to public suspicion or the police, the politicians who approved the law, and the legal system in general.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Duhfish So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

            The article does say that they felt the actions were not compatible with human rights law so it is probable that the police did break the law.

            The "anti-terrorism" law is itself only valid if it strikes a reasonable balance between the need for security and peoples human rights. It could be argued that by using it to try and catch whistleblowers that balance is no longer there so the action would fall foul of human rights laws either at a national level or at a European level.

            I"m not saying unequivically that this is the case I"m just saying that it is possible, or in my view probable, that laws have been broken in one way or another.

        2. DropBear Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Duhfish So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

          "The only way - the only way - to ensure that these laws are not misused is to write the laws to specifically restrict what is and is not allowed and under what circumstances and with what authorisation and to clearly lay down that actions that fall outside of those specific criteria are breaches of the law."

          I'm sure human civilisation will eventually reach a point where that happens FOR THE FIRST TIME. Unless the heat death of the universe occurs first of course, which right now looks like a very real possibility.

        3. Roo
          Windows

          Re: Duhfish So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

          "Of course, you can't really stop misuse completely but strict, clear laws with well-defined terms will go a long way."

          Laws only deter law breakers if they are enforced effectively, consistently & fairly. I don't see that happening in this country. What tends to happen is the laws are not enforced because the police really aren't capable or interested in enforcing them. The Wasters of Westminster respond by creating new poorly thought out laws and cutting the police budget.

          The law is being made to look stupid by the morons passing the laws. IMO. ;)

        4. tlhonmey

          Re: Duhfish So when the police break the law, it's called 'being reckless'.

          And when those specifically-written laws are broken, who investigates and assigns punishment?

          Oh... Right... The same group that was breaking the laws in the first place...

          And if you dig through the records of such incidents, you can find a lot of public outrage, usually coupled with, at best, a slap-on-the-wrist type punishment for the perpetrators, and the law goes right on being abused as soon as the incident has faded from the public eye. The bureaucratic entity in charge maybe has some of its pieces swapped out for other pieces with different names, but that perform exactly the same functions (if public outrage is high enough), and business continues as usual. Wash, rinse, repeat, until everyone knows that the law does not apply to the enforcers of it.

          You need look no further than the fact that this particular incident appears to have been part of attempted reprisal against a whistle-blower. The message is clear, "Tell anyone about illegal or immoral actions taken by the police, and there will be retribution, even if we have to do morally and/or legally questionable things to get it." It would not surprise me at all to find that this story was leaked on purpose so that anyone thinking of talking to a journalist would know that the authorities would do everything in their power to identify them. And the probable, forthcoming lack of punishment for those involved will reinforce that.

          No, my friend, the only way to prevent laws granting this kind of power from being abused is to not write them in the first place, because the population is too gutless and has too short a memory to actually do anything about it if the abuse clauses in the law are ignored.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    So the charge is?

    Conspiracy to pervert? Contempt of court? Treason?

    1. Joefish
      Joke

      Re: So the charge is?

      Being two days from retirement in a built-up area?

    2. Smooth Newt Silver badge

      Re: So the charge is?

      There isn't one. As the article says, these are guidelines.

      To quote Captain Barbossa: And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So the charge is?

        So. No redress since it's not illegal. Pity if someone might accidentally found out out and leaked the name, address, banks details, social security numbers and brazilian-fart-porn-surfing habits of every McPlod involved in the signing off of this shit. See how much the fuckers value their privacy afterward.

  3. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    And we welcome the downvoters from Police Scotland...

    1. Joefish
      Joke

      @Zippy's Sausage Factory

      And I thought it was Nixon fans.

      Maybe if you changed your name to 'Zippy's _Square_ Sauasage Factory'...?

    2. Barely registers

      or Police Scotch-land, as attributed to the homeland of the "plod" by the article itself.

      Not funny or clever.

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    And what is being done...

    To make sure that this doesn't happen again, and again, and again...?

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: And what is being done...

      We are giving them more powers and being told we can trust them.

      Hmnn you know come to think of it that doesn't sound quite right...

    2. dephormation.org.uk
      Meh

      Re: And what is being done...

      "a detailed action plan was put in place as soon as the issue was highlighted".

      A detailed action plan document written by the same force that "recklessly" ignored the detailed Code of Practice document.

      I can't see that plan being very successful unless it includes reading lessons, and/or a note that the IoCCO are not to be invited for dinner again.

  5. The_Idiot

    So...

    ... um, 'oops', and 'we promise not to use the same excuse next time'?

    Sigh.

  6. nematoad Silver badge

    On the other hand.

    ""...significant measures in order to prevent any recurrence of such contraventions."

    Either that or a bigger carpet to sweep such things under in the future.

    Which one would you think they will go for?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand.

      Or a new law making all uses of RIPA top secret - and a criminal offence to report them.

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Flame

    Or, to summarise in 5 words.

    If they can, they will.

    1. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

      Re: Or, to summarise in 5 words.

      If they can, they will.

      And if the can't they will anyway.

  8. fruitoftheloon
    WTF?

    Who's a naughty boy then? squawked "Toothless" the parrot?

    Now am I missing something or is the whole charade, oops, sorry 'protection and governance regime' made out of FUCKING TISSUE PAPER???

    Local headline: naughty coppers punished by only having Rich Tea biscuits with their coffee...

    /sighs...

  9. Fraggle850

    Never mind

    I'm sure that British plods will tighten up their procedures ahead of obersturmbannfuhrer May's new Investigatory Powers legislation so we'll have nothing to fear from potential misuse of sweeping new powers.

  10. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Guidelines, eh?

    Something which strikes terror into everyone.

    Not a law, not a technical measure which prevents access, but... a guideline.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm so glad we live in a country where everyone obeys the law and those that break it are suitably punished to ensure others don't commit the same offences.

    In other news pigs did indeed fly.

    What a crock of shit, I mean seriously, how can you break the law in such a disgraceful way displaying exactly why the government wants all these terrorpedageddon powers and all you get is told you shouldn't have done it and you'll make sure it doesn't happen again, promised with fingers crossed behind back.

    I think if I get a speeding ticket I'll stand before a judge and explain that I have had it independently reviewed by a friend and yes I should not have been speeding and they have told me that in future I am not to do it by driving at the correct speed lmits. That should sort it no need to issue a fine or points.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I think if I get a speeding ticket I'll stand before a judge and explain that I have had it independently reviewed by a friend and yes I should not have been speeding and they have told me that in future I am not to do it by driving at the correct speed lmits. That should sort it no need to issue a fine or points."

      You forgot the magic formula. "We are sorry if anyone thinks that we may have not correctly followed official guidelines"

    2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      What a crock of shit, I mean seriously, how can you break the law in such a disgraceful way

      The unfortunate thing is that, as others have stated above, they didn't actually break the law, they "failed to follow guidelines".

  12. KBeee
    Big Brother

    Weasle words

    "that it did not adhere to the new guidelines covering access to communications data during a recent investigation into alleged serious breaches of information security" should read -

    that it did not adhere to the guidelines covering access to communications data during a recent investigation into serious breaches of information security,

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Words

    Do not like the use of the word reckless as this implies it was accidental when it fact it was wilful and deliberate. Also note how they talk about new guidelines as if this wasn't an issue before.

    If gov't is to have these powers then there must be appropriate responsibility and accountability to go along with them, a lot of the unofficial access stuff would be immediate dismissal in a private company so should at least be the same for police etc. if not with associated criminal charges.

  14. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    FAIL

    Re: Dippy

    Well, h8rz gotta h8.

  15. king_tut

    IPBill

    It's worth noting how this may have been handled differently under the Investigatory Powers Bill.

    Firstly, there is an actual criminal offence that would have been broken (s8 of the bill). That could result in fines and jail terms. Even if a criminal prosecution wasn't followed, the individuals who broke the rules could have been fined 50k (s6 of the bill).

    Secondly, under s171(4), there may not have been a referral to the IPT, as a breach of the ECHR is not itself sufficient for an error to be a "serious" error. And the existence of the error would also only be made public if a "serious error" occurred and it is in the public interest to release the info.

    What the IPBill giveth, the IPBill taketh away...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: IPBill

      "Even if a criminal prosecution wasn't followed, the individuals who broke the rules could have been fined 50k (s6 of the bill)."

      How do you fine someone without a criminal prosecution first?

      I suppose my problem is that I'm used to proper legal procedure in courts of law.

      1. king_tut

        Re: IPBill

        @Doctor Syntax

        Under s6, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner can opt to levy a fine (monetary penalty notice) if an interception occurred without lawful authority (defined in s5 - basically that a warrant is in place), but wasn't intentional. i.e. if a cockup happens and you accidentally intercept someone/something you shouldn't have. However, s6(3)(c) gives a get-out-of-jail of if the person was making an attempt to act in accordance with a warrant, so not all cock-ups are covered.

        Appeals would go through the First-Tier Tribunal, which is a court of law. Essentially the situation is like a fixed penalty notice.

        If the interception was intentional, and without lawful authority, then it's a crime under s2, with 2 years in jail and/or a fine as the penalty.

        In this particular case, it appears that a warrant would have been present, but wouldn't have gone through the process correctly. I'm not sure therefore whether there was, or was not "lawful authority". Yet another bit of the IP Bill that needs proper definition. Ho hum :)

  16. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    So Police Scotland broke the law, yet nobody held accountable. Who says Police are not above the law !

  17. Graham Marsden
    Holmes

    "Police Scotland have now...

    "... established "significant measures in order to prevent any recurrence of such contraventions."

    Someone has wagged their finger severely at the perpetrators and told them: "Next time, DON'T get caught!"

    1. Jungleland

      Re: "Police Scotland have now...

      Simple. They'll just turn off logging so there is no audit trail anymore.

      Problem solved.

  18. rtb61

    How About The Whistleblower

    Should the whistle blower be sought out, should they be rewarded with early retirement and a massive pension as a reward. This investigation pretty much demonstrated the threat the whistle blower was under, that active psychopath conspiracy to hunt them done and what kill them in the line of service.

    So how about at least an investigation into what the conspirators intended to do to the police officer who acted according to law, conscience and honour. What had those corrupt law enforcers intended, what where they plotting to do with that information.

    How about all those people tarred by association, are they not entitled to recompense, how about that emphatic threat to journalists 'not only will you be targeted as a journalist but also your family and any one associated with you'. Be friends with a journalist and you immediately go on a watch list, now that is a direct attack on journalists, that desire to isolate and control them, so they only report corporate desired propaganda.

  19. Your alien overlord - fear me

    In future all whistleblowers will be hunted down by Hellfire carrying US drones to prove it wasn't the Scottish Police targetting any journos.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone else...

    ...starting to feel homicidal over the "content breaks" that expand as soon as you start to scroll the article. What a PITFA....

  21. Pompous Git Silver badge
    Happy

    Scotch plod...

    ... or plaid plod? Something that Flanders and Swann could have turned into a witty ditty.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      IOCCO: Police 'reckless' for using terrorism powers on journo sources

      Like: hopscotch plod hope hopped scotched, pebble thrower scratched. Needs work, I can understand why they went with their title.

    2. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

      Re: Scotch plod...

      If you do it for them, I'll try and get a Youtube video of them spinning in their graves!

  22. dephormation.org.uk
    Facepalm

    What is the point of the IoCCO?

    What value does the IoCCO add if a policeman can act "recklessly" with surveillance powers, and the very worst sanction the "regulator" can offer is lobbing scornful words in his general direction.

    1. king_tut

      Re: What is the point of the IoCCO?

      They are tasked with providing the oversight, and doing the investigation. They are the ones who identified the problem in the first case, and then did the deeper dive. They then refer it to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (and/or tell the affected parties how to do so themselves). The IPT is a court.

      Think of IOCCO as the police. They do the investigation, and then pass on the prosecution to the court system.

      1. dephormation.org.uk
        Angel

        Re: What is the point of the IoCCO?

        >Think of IOCCO as the police. They do the investigation, and then pass on the prosecution to the court system.

        Except they don't. IoCCO claim they do not have the power to refer an offence to the IPT.

        So after a finding of fault, or even "recklessness" in this case, IoCCO simpy dump the responsibilty for redress back on the victim, and tell them go forth and multiply.

        There is no consequence unless the victim then complains *again* to the IPT and they find in the complainant's favour.

        But the IPT reject 99.7% of all complaints they receive. So buena suerte amigo.

  23. DocJames
    Joke

    When you know there's a problem

    So I'm against attacks on the Scottish Mail now? Dammit, I'm a Gaurdain* reader!

    * not really**.

    ** that I'll admit to on this site

    1. ScottAS2

      Re: When you know there's a problem

      *ahem* You are getting the Sunday Mail, which is the sister paper of the Daily Record, mixed up with The Mail on Sunday, the Sunday edition of the Daily Mail.

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