back to article Use snooped data in court? Nah, says - folk might be cleared

British government snoops claimed it was too much hassle for them to use intercepted communications data in court proceedings because the accused could use the info to prove their innocence, it has emerged. Police officers, spies and local council bin inspectors were all asked for their views of Blighty's surveillance laws as …

  1. frank ly

    It'll be fine

    We can rely on the integrity and professionalism of the police, security services and the civil service, etc.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am cleaning coffee off the table...

    You... Call... That... Democracy?

    You... Call... That... Rule of Law?

    It looks like snooping on lawyer conversations and blanket surveillance of journalist sources is definitely not a one off. Koba and Iron Felix would be proud.

  3. John Robson Silver badge

    Is it just me...

    or would an increase in aquitalls not also be a measure of success?

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: Is it just me...

      Not under the current system. That would be absolute failure. The current system rewards convictions. So, if the number of convictions drops, then they're failing to reach targets - regardless of whether those people were innocent or not.

      This is where we've gone awry. We're more obsessed with convictions than resolving crime. A conviction doesn't necessarily mean a crime solved.

    2. MrXavia

      Re: Is it just me...

      Not really, all that would show is the CPS is trying to prosecute without sufficient evidence...

      Courts of law should only be used when the evidence is very clear that a crime has been committed by the suspect, AND it is in the public/victims interest in prosecuting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it just me...

        'prosecute without sufficient evidence...'

        You get taken to court if the police are trying to cover up their own crimes/mistakes. That way if you are convicted nobody will want to listen to you. The whole system is corrupt and this is just ammo for them to use against their victims. When the straw breaks the camels back they have only themselves to blame.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Is it just me...

        @ MrXavia - Not really, all that would show is the CPS is trying to prosecute without sufficient evidence...

        OK - Aquittals or dropped prosecutions...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it just me...

        They've been trying this trick for a long time now. Which is why they "bundle" lots of other charges together in the hope that some of the mud will stick.

        And even when the prosecution lose their case, they never put their hands up and say "mea culpa, we got this wrong" they just put out some mealy mouth statement saying "we accept the court's verdict, but we were right to bring the prosecution" - in other words "we know he's guilty we just didn't have the evidence".

        1. Hollerith 1

          Re: Is it just me...

          Or the other way around: their mealy-mouthed statements cover "we were going to bring him down even through we knew he was innocent, because we needed someone in jail and a tick on our 'to do' list, but sadly the court's decision didn't go our way, so we'll imply that he's actually guilty and was let off my those bleeding-heart liberals."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it just me...

      I don't really see why: if the acquitted were really guilty then it's a miscarriage of justice; if they were innocent then they shouldn't (in an ideal world) have been brought to trial, and doing so has wasted both prosecution and defence resources that could have been better employed elsewhere. The CPS will only prosecute if it believes there is a "reasonable chance of conviction" (over 49%) - interestingly; that standard is coming under attack in the Charles de Menzes case currently being heard in Strasbourg, the argument being that applying such a high standard to prosecutions violates the Art.2 rights of people killed by the state.

      I suppose if the defendant had been publicly suspected/accused before the justice system got involved, and the trial enabled them to clear their names in a way that wouldn't have happened without legal intervention, then an acquittal could count as a 'success'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it just me...

        Except it doesn't work like that in practice.

        There's a lot of political pressure to bring prosecutions of certain types of crime just to show how "tough on crime" they are.

        And so prosecutions will be brought where the evidence is slim just so they can put a tick in the right box.

  4. localzuk Silver badge

    Thinking the powers that be have missed the point

    They are there to serve the population. If that data can lead to people being proved innocent, then they absolutely should do it!

    They don't like judicial oversight? Tough. Our system was supposed to separate different actions into different branches of government. Executive run agencies. Parliament create laws. Judiciary ensure executive follow those laws. They provide the checks and balances that should always be in place, to ensure no single part of government is being undemocratic or breaking the rules.

    1. Tempest 3K
      Big Brother

      Re: Thinking the powers that be have missed the point

      'They are there to serve the population'

      It's been a long time since the powers that be have believed that - they are only interested in what they can gain, hence the moves to remove checks and balances :(

    2. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Thinking the powers that be have missed the point

      I am asking this as an outsider to the UK's legal system. If the defense is aware that there was surveillance of the accused, would it be possible to subpoena that even if the prosecution does not submit it as evidence on their own? Also, doesn't the prosecution have an obligation to make exculpatory evidence available to the defense? There have been a number of cases here in the US that have recently gotten the accused released or retried because the prosecutors suppressed exculpatory evidence (e.g. the case of Thomas Barton).

    3. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Thinking the powers that be have missed the point

      The police still think that they are part of the prosecution process (from the days before the CPS when criminal prosecutions were brought by the police). Now the CPS exists, the police should be merely investigatory, working for neither side. Getting rid of targets based on crimes solved should be high on any government's list, and then realigning the police as an arm of the courts, with dispassionate investigation at their core.

  5. Blank-Reg
    Black Helicopters

    "He also noted that law enforcement agencies showed “markedly less enthusiasm for the recently-introduced requirement of authorisation by magistrate for communications data requests.”

    Funny, that."

    Indeed. Funny how these parasites hate it when they have to follow these little concepts such as the rule of law.

  6. corestore

    Here's a bloody good question...

    ...that almost nobody is asking.

    "Stingray IMSI catchers..."

    Google, Apple, et. al. responded to the Snowden revelations by taking precautions to help their customers stay secure from snooping - crypto on the backbone, crypto on by default, etc etc.

    What measures are mobile telcos taking to protect *their* customers from the revelations of Stingray and similar devices? Have they designed and/or implemented protocols to ensure their devices only connect to genuine cell towers? If not, why not, and what do they intend to do?

    No-one seems to be asking this obvious question; I think El Reg should, and be persistent about it...

    1. Emperor Zarg

      Re: Here's a bloody good question...

      If the mobile Telcos are anything like BT they will be actively involved in with Government information gathering schemes.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are at least two sane people in the House of Commons, David Davis and Tom Watson.

    I wonder just how long they will be around before they meet with an unfortunate car accident or some sort of scandal ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't think you can quite class Tom Watson as having principles, if that's what meant. Opportunistic, Brown-era boot boy more like...

    2. David Pollard

      It's interesting to note that when it comes to difficult issues such as this - 'politically sensitive' is perhaps the phrase that's used - the MPs who are prepared to try to tackle them come from both sides of the House. For me this suggests that there may be a glimmer of hope. At least some of our representatives seem to have a sense of decency and fair play.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        David, they may also be guilty as hell.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "At least some of our representatives seem to have a sense of decency and fair play."

        On the whole, that tends to be the "new" boys and girls, the first timers. Unusually for a UK Parliament, there are quite a few new boys and girls this time around, mainly SNP. I wonder how long their principles will last? Is the taste of power and the subsequent ambition that makes them drop principles to be "on message", is it being worn down by civil servants or is just that the security briefing scare the shit out of them?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Quite a shame that David Davis didn't beat Cameron to the Conservative party leadership.

      He would get my vote every time if I were able to vote for him.

  8. SVV

    Local Council Bin Inspectors

    Just the fact that this job exists, and they had to be consulted on a law that is supposedly to protect us from malign forves who wish to do us harm, is another important reason this gets on people's nerves.

    By letting the use of these powers be so wide ranging that they allow such nonsense as this to fall within their remit, they are opening themselves up to widespread objection to powers that may really be needed to tackle genuine threats.

    Unless putting an empty beer can in the wrong coloured bin bag is really going to undermine the foundattions of civic society in some way that I don't understand......

    1. Graham Marsden

      @SVV - Re: Local Council Bin Inspectors

      But the Government have gone through all the time and effort to get these powers implemented, so they *must* have intended them to be used and, by the gods, we're *going* to use them!!!

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Local Council Bin Inspectors

      You mean you don't tweet the fact every time you put the wrong thing in the wrong bin?

  9. Ian 62

    Parallel construction

    I've heard talk of the US justice getting round having to reveal the help they get from the FBI etc by building a case on Parallel construction.

    I assume its something like;

    The info we got from the FBI stingray says they are selling drugs from this house. But we cant mention that so we'll say we got a tip off from nosey neighbor.


    we're tracking his phone heading up the motor way. Lets fudge the DVLA database so local plod can pull him over for no record of insurance, then they can do a stop and search on the car.

    Secret evidence? No need.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guilty until proven innocent...

    See title

    And then maybe still Guilty.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use it to show they were innocent of the crimes they were charged

    And therein lies the problem with the British justice system. It is used to prove you guilty and if they have evidence to show otherwise they'd rather you didn't know about it and ignore it, let alone let you have access to it.

  12. asiaseen

    It used to be

    that the prosecution were required to disclose unused evidence to the defence on request and that would presumably cover snooping records. I'm talking about 30 years ago so things may well have changed.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: It used to be

      But that's the point - the data isn't classed as evidence. It's likely that the prosecution don't even get to look at it and even if the defence had a look they couldn't use it in court.

  13. Philip Virgo

    The other way of looking at this is the abuse of legal aid to enable criminal lawyers to trawl through everything collected by (or available to) law enforcement, whether or not it might be relevant. What is being said is that it is too much hassle to review the way that court procedures have become skewed in favour of organised crime as a whole: not just in favour of well-lawyered terrorist groups.

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