back to article Police bugging of lawyer visits might see flood of appeals

The furore over police bugging operations conducted in prison visiting rooms has widened somewhat, with allegations that significant numbers of conversations between prisoners and their legal representatives may have been taped. Angry lawyers are speculating that this could invalidate an unknown number of convictions and see …


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  1. Matt Siddall

    cynical thought

    we were having trouble with prison overcrowding... anyone else think this might have been a deliberate slip?

    "Oh noes! We were caught bugging people. I'll tell you what... as a gesture of good faith, we'll let some of them out (and handily make some more space in the prisons)."

    I'd not put it past them...

  2. Anonymous Coward

    I told you so.

    No, really, I did.

    Every time they gave themselves more powers of surveillance and arbitrary executive power, I said "Don't be fooled, they're just /saying/ it's for terrorism; they'll be using it on *all* of us at the drop of a hat".

    And they did.

    Every time they took away another civil liberty or another human right with the excuse that it was necessary to fight terrorists, I said "But it's *our* rights they're taking away, not the terrorists'".

    And they were.

    Freedom and democracy doesn't "just happen"; it's not magic, it's not automatic, you don't get it just because you were born in this country or have a white skin.

    They are something that we (our ancestors) *won*; they had to fight for them to get them, and the social and economic forces whom they had to fight are still present, and still opposed to allowing us the freedom to live our own lives.

    They are something that is *always* in danger of being taken away, or lost, or neglected. They need constant maintenance and eternal vigilance.

    Don't believe "It could never happen here". It could, and it can, and it has in the past, and if we are such slaves to our fears that we accept every repressive measure at face value, if we trust every soothing lie about how they only mean to apply these measures to bad people, not /us/, if we clamour for more and more security and brutality against anyone and anything the least out-of-the-ordinary or frightening or surprising or strange, it will happen here again. And soon.

    I will never give in to the totalitarian instinct, no matter how scared I am of personal physical harm. To me, it is a matter of patriotism and loyalty that we defend our hard-won freedoms against *all* attackers: those from within, as well as those from without. *That* is the tradition of our country; that is our national identity; that is our spirit.

  3. Mike

    What do you call a dead lawyer? A good start

    At least one prominent lawyer seemed to be relishing the prospect, with celebrity human-rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson telling the Telegraph: "Most of these cases will have to be brought back to court and in my view the courts will react with such fury, as a matter of principle, that those prisoners whose conversations have been bugged will have to be let out."


    So these money-grabbing fkkrs can see another way of getting more money out of the legal system? Great. And the only risk? Oh probably a few dangerous nutters back on the streets to kill/maim/rob again.

    I thought our justice system was to protect the innocent? As far as I am concerned, anyone who commits a crime in this country gives up their human rights, privacy rights and any other rights while they serve their time. So what if their conversations were monitored? If they weren't criminals, they wouldn't be there and they wouldn't have their conversations recorded.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Coward

    "I will never give in to the totalitarian instinct, no matter how scared I am of personal physical harm."

    Sadly, you appeared to be scared enough to post anonymously.

    I have found myself thinking 'how would this look' when browing the internet from time to time - and it has crossed my mind that something has fundamentally changed in our society.

    The geek document which used to be known as the 'Anarchists cookbook' is now known as 'the terrorist's handbook'.

    I remember somebody saying that the point of resisting surveillance was that when surveillance became ubiquitous, people would change their behaviour because they knew they were being watched - even if they were doing nothing wrong.

    I don't know how other people feel, but I think we're already there.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "...If they weren't criminals..."

    I hope that was irony there, Mark. Or sarcasm.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Even more cynical thought

    "If the legal profession's current outrage results in Huntley being freed, though, people might start to see the lawyer/client confidentiality as part of the problem rather than the solution."

    Could this be part of a longer, even more Machiavellan, plan to remove lawyer/client confidentiality? There must be lots of juicy details passing between the 2 parties that is currently unusable as evidence, and I can see the "but we'd only use it against terrorists" trump card being used to bin this as another awkward and archaic legal irrelevance from the past, as, after all, "the rules of the game are changing" (c. T Blair 2005).

    Tapatapatapatap - the sound of thousands of small chisels being used thousands of times, leaving only dust where once were our rights.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proving a negative.

    If this bugging has happened without a warrant, how can anyone ever know for sure which conversations were recorded?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    So they bug people illegally, which results in the convictions being deemed unsafe and criminals released from prison, possibly compensation as well, which outrages the public, who are manipulate dto believe that allowing the bugging in the first place would have prevented all this, so the longstanding conventions against bugging get blamed instead of the real culprits ie. the police breaking the rules, and the law gets changed, allowing the government to watch us even more closely and eroding yet another part of our civil liberties. clever tactic.

  9. Mike Richards Silver badge

    @ Mike

    'I thought our justice system was to protect the innocent? As far as I am concerned, anyone who commits a crime in this country gives up their human rights, privacy rights and any other rights while they serve their time.'

    Conversations between a lawyer and their client, however unwholesome, are confidential. If you really value the justice system you have to accept this

    Some of these conversations took place when the people were on remand awaiting trial. At this point they were legally innocent, anything that could have interfered with the outcome of the trial is an abuse of the justice system.

    Other bugging would have taken place when a person was appealing against a sentence. Again it could have distorted the outcome of the trial.

    If Huntley was bugged then serious questions must be raised as to *why* he was bugged. If it happened after his initial trial it is unlikely to mean the verdict would be set aside, but it should result in a real enquiry as to what the hell the police are up to. If they can't explain it, then heads, right up to the Chief Constable and the Justice Minister *MUST* roll. Neither of them should be allowed to get away with 'I wasn't told' - they are paid huge sums of money to run their organisations, if they can't do it, or if they turn a blind eye, then they have to go - and hopefully be prosecuted.

    With any luck this will sink the whole New Labour Big Brother state built by a succession of control-freak Home Secretaries determined to look tough and a pair of inadequates masquerading as Prime Minister.

  10. heystoopid

    Here's an evil thought

    Here's an evil thought , if all the convictions are deemed unsafe then all those who bugged the conversations should they not be sent down to complete the court allocated sentences instead as they too are real crooks anyway !

  11. Colonel Panic


    Hate to break it to you Mike, but being "a criminal" in this country is very, very easy. Wrong place, wrong time is about all it takes. "I didn't mean it" ? Sorry, mate, doesn't matter what you were thinking - there's this little something called strict liability.

    So when your sorry butt is dragged before some beak for (for eg) "having an article of use to a terrorist" (that copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook you downloaded in 1997 for a laugh and completely forgot was still on your hard drive), or whatever half-baked offence the Daily Mail has managed to scare No.10 into ramming through parliament, some "money-grabbing fkkr" (that would be me) will have to come to court, and find out from you why you think you shouldn't end up in clink.

    And guess what ? I'll probably be paid about £ 46 for my entire day listening to your sorry tale. Not exactly a princely sum, I'm sure you agree. I could make more money flipping burgers or driving a bus. But the beauty of it, see, is that you're *not* a criminal yet - until you've had a trial and been convicted you *are* innocent.

    That's why I'm there.

  12. John

    Illegal recordings

    These prisoners need to get in touch with the RIAA !!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When in history has a government agency been given powers that it has not abused?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mike

    Isn't it illegal to bug a lawyer client conversation?

    By your reasoning the buggers are now criminals, and should not have any human rights extended to them. Soon there won't be anyone left :)

    I think you misunderstand what the legal system is about - it is there to maintain the status quo, protecting the innocent is just the PR angle. Very rarely does it actually protect the innocent, instead it punishes the guilty after the innocent has been compromised, there is very little protection going on.

    All it does is herd people into a small space, and denies them rights, if it can be shown that the rights of others have been infringed. But guess what, all of our most fundamental rights have all been abused since birth, it is impossible to be innocent in today's society. We all take from each other, we are not really that symbiotic we are far more parasitic to each other. May it be marking on the curve, or competing for land, we abuse each other's rights left, right and center.

    The lawyer client confidentiality right, is there to ensure a glimmer of fairness in what is a corrupt system. By committing the crime of willfully breaking that confidentiality the victims are not just the direct victims, but all of us in society. I hope that the people responsible for the bugging are all sought out, brought to justice and not let out for a very long time, so they won't be bugging us for the foreseeable future.

    And people should be held personally accountable for it, no hiding behind public groups where a fine would be met by the tax payer, liability should extend to them personally with their own possessions and rights on the line not ours.

    If a conviction was secured on information that formed part of the lawyer client privilege then the conviction has to be over turned as it is unsound by definition. If you are under the impression that whatever you tell a certain party is to remain confidential and is secured by the system itself as being confidential, then a breakdown there means you have not had a fair trial, you are in the eyes of the law innocent. The problem is people bargain in the legal system - it is not about truth, it is what can be demonstrated and believed as truth. Insider information can do more to taint the truth than it can to bolster it, depending upon how that illicit information is wielded.

    If you wish to prove a person is guilty of a crime then you require evidence and the way that evidence is obtained has to be beyond dispute, see torture and tricks all bring the evidence into disrepute, if someone is guilty then you have to prove they are so, if you cannot and still punish you are just as guilty as the person who did actually commit the crime, with the addition of the crimes you committed along the way to secure an unfair conviction.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Abuse of power

    "When in history has a government agency been given powers that it has not abused?"

    You're probably right, but that doesn't go far enough in this case. There have never been any powers given to Government to eavesdrop on lawyer-client conversations under *any* circumstances.

    This is an example of an Authority taking powers to itself without our permission and has to be nailed in the head to stop them thinking they can do it all the time, without even the fig leafs of some of the current legislative instruments which amount mostly to Diktat.

  16. Mark

    @Colonel Panic

    Some time ago, prompted by someone who was taking a Law degree asking "why do people hate lawyers" where I couldn't think of anything other than "you're all bastards is why" which is hardly a help, I figured out what it is.

    Solicitors make the powerful more powerful.

    Someone rich can afford an expensive lawyer. Why does that lawyer cost more? Because they are better at winning cases. So if someone rich and someone poor come together, the rich person gets an expensive lawyer and the poor person gets "Free" lawyer. Are you willing to put much effort into the case for £49 a day? What if it was £490 per hour? Will you have several paralegals helping for that £49?

    So justice becomes an element of "can you afford it" rather than "do you deserve it".

    And the rich already have power and influence. Paul McCartney gets to talk to the Prime Minister. I don't. When Bill Gates talks to a minister, he's listened to. I get a form letter. So they don't NEED more power.

    But the cost of a lawyer makes it available only to those who pay.

    And the solicitor makes the powerful more powerful.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    It should be obvious that the police shouldn't be buggering prisoners without their consent, but since there have been so few complaints, makybe they enjoy it?

    A conviction isn't automatically unsafe because something illegal happened to the convicted, the information so acquired would have to be actually _used_ against them in some way.

    The best most of the crim's could hope for is a re-trial, and if there's nothing that has been deemd inadmissable then the same result should follow.

    Paris, cos she's had rich lawyers (nearly worked too).

  18. Ross

    Wrong story

    Surely the news worthy story here isn't the fact that the state is illegally poking its nose into so many peoples private lives, but the fact that someone has invented a time machine and transported 1940s Stasi Germany right on top of the UK?

    It's like The Lives of Others without the subtitles :o(

  19. Edward Pearson

    Bah, naughty, but the innocent...

    Sure, this is a bit naughty, but in my opinion this is here to crack down on bent lawyers (I believe that if the lawyer knows you to be guilty, they cannot defend you) not to victimise the suspects.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >I believe that if the lawyer knows you to be guilty, they cannot defend you

    This would be trial by lawyer, a defendant appearing in court defendign themselves would be presumed guilty.

    Bugger the prisoners by all means, but at least give them legal representation.

  21. Henry Cobb
    Dead Vulture

    Who bugs the buggers

    So everybody who bugs the lawyers must themselves be bugged.

    And those buggies must be bugged themselves.

    And so on.

    Why not just put a webcam on every subject (not citizen, citizens have rights you see) of the crown and finance the NHS from google ads?

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