Investigatory Powers Bill

Written Evidence submitted by the Crown Prosecution Service (IPB 50)

1. The Crown Prosecution Service supports the Investigatory Powers Bill as currently drafted. We consider the Bill’s provisions essential for ensuring effective investigations and prosecutions in a world where technology, capability and opportunity are constantly evolving.

2. We provided written evidence to the Joint Committee which scrutinised the Draft Bill in late 2015 / early 2016. We will not restate here the main opinions we articulated in that submission, other than to highlight that the Joint Committee chose to reflect on several of them in paragraphs 53, 62, 95 of their report as published on 11th February 2016. This short submission instead focuses on the most important amendment, from the CPS perspective, made to the draft Bill following publication of the Joint Committee’s report.

3. The Joint Committee made the following recommendation:

[W]e recommend that the purposes for which law enforcement may seek to access ICRs should be expanded to include information about websites that have been accessed that are not related to communications services nor contain illegal material, provided that this is necessary and proportionate for a specific investigation. (Recommendation 9)

The Government has accepted this recommendation and amended clause 54 of the Bill to widen the purposes for which law enforcement may seek to access ICRs.

4. The CPS is supportive of this amendment. It is clear that the internet connection activity of criminals, beyond their use of communications services or access to websites relating to material for which the making or possession is a crime, is relevant to criminal investigations and prosecutions, and it is also clear that investigators and prosecutors cannot always currently get access to that evidence when they need it.

5. For example, the CPS Organised Crime Division recently prosecuted a case in which a defendant accessed a website known as ‘Vessel Tracking’ to follow the progress of a container ship carrying drugs. Investigators only became aware of this following the defendant’s arrest and examination of his exhibited device under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. But if this had not been possible – perhaps because the device was subsequently destroyed before arrest – then this piece of evidence would not have existed without ICRs. Furthermore, having access to ICRs would have enabled investigators to start gathering evidence of this criminal activity before arrest and/or charge, removing the risk of important evidence subsequently being unavailable.

6. The Bill as currently drafted would address this current limitation and is in line with the recommendation of the Joint Committee.

7. Should the Committee require any further evidence from the CPS on any of the Bill’s provisions – the most relevant of which for prosecutors are those relating to communications data and equipment interference – then I would be pleased to provide additional material.

April 2016

 

Prepared 6th April 2016