Tony Lloyd has joined forces with 20 other Police and Crime Commissioners to urge the Home Secretary to restart the debate over new laws to tackle terrorists and criminals who are using increasingly sophisticated telecommunications and internet channels to plot offences.
The Draft Communications Data Bill would enable police – in strictly limited circumstances – to gather data from telecommunications and internet traffic when investigating terrorism and serious organised crime.
It was put forward by Home Secretary Theresa May with a view to becoming law in 2014, but failed to get the support of Parliament. Although dubbed the “snoopers’ charter” by critics, in reality it would have allowed the law to catch up with dangerous criminals and terrorists who have been using more and more sophisticated ways to cover their tracks in the online world.
Tony said: “Legislation has failed to keep up with the pace of developments in technology. People now keep in touch with each other in a variety of ways, such as email, Skype, or instant messaging, but it is difficult for police to gather information on this communication. This puts them one step behind the criminal, hindering the fight against terrorism and organised crime, and putting public safety at risk.
“At the moment investigators can, within the legal framework, identify criminals and terrorists’ phone calls and text messages, when they were sent and where. Indeed, this has been vital to locking up some of the most dangerous people this country has ever seen and to disrupting potential terrorist outrages. But current laws prevent the police from obtaining the same information for email, internet telephony, instant messaging or other internet-based services.
“The Draft Communications Bill proposes that internet service providers and mobile phone companies be required to maintain records of each user’s internet browsing activity, email correspondence, telephone calls, internet gaming and mobile phone messaging services and store it for twelve months.
“This is no ‘snoopers’ charter’ – rather it could be the difference between life and death, or a criminal being locked up or walking free. It’s essential the police have the tools they need to protect the public and build safer communities, and it is why more than half of the country’s Police and Crime Commissioners have joined forces to pledge support to the Home Secretary to get this Bill back on the Parliamentary agenda.”
The 21 Police and Crime Commissioners have added their signatures to a letter to Theresa May to declare their support for the Bill. The move was initiated by Gloucestershire PCC Martin Surl, a former senior police officer with experience of counter terrorism. Working for ACPO (TAM) – Terrorism and Allied Matters – he worked on the creation of the national policing counter terrorism network in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings.
Read the letter to the Home Secretary here.