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Permission to Bug a Criminal in England?
April 6, 2011 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Under British law, what sort of evidence would police need to already have in order for them to get a court to grant them permission to plant a bug?

I'm doing research for a writing project that deals with organized crime in England. I need to know the amount/type of evidence police would need to have against a suspected gang criminal in order for a court to agree that planting a listening device on the property of that criminal would be both lawful and useful to the investigation.

Does anybody have any insights?
posted by baronessa to Law & Government (4 answers total)
 
I think you want to to take a look at the Home Office's "Interception Code of Practice." Describes in some detail the implementation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act ("RIPA").
posted by valkyryn at 10:20 AM on April 6, 2011


Is it specifically a bug? I have some small amount of experience with what is required relating to monitoring of landline/mobile phones if that is of any use? Remote surveillance isn't my thing although I've some knowledge of the the equipment and hassles involved otherwise.
posted by longbaugh at 2:01 PM on April 6, 2011


Monitoring of phones would be of use as well! The parameters of the "case" are not set in stone, so I can change the narrative to go in any direction that holds interest.
posted by baronessa at 2:46 PM on April 6, 2011


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I don't think that the information I can provide is going to be exactly what you are after. Your question is geared to what a judge might require before agreeing to authorise a tap and for this I'd strongly recommend having a word with someone actually involved in the process.

To give you an idea of what I can provide - I've worked for over a decade with a UK company dealing with both landlines/mobiles and can give you some perspective on what we ask for from the Police when they in turn ask for access to our switches. We would normally only be involved after the wiretap request has been authorised however.

Below are some other thoughts that may be appropriate to your exercise. I hope they are of some use - feel free to MeMail me if there is anything else I can assist with.

If an investigation involves either Special Branch or the Security Service (MI5) things get more complex. The SS only requires the authorisation of the Home Office - no judge required! With the modern Western government's desires to label almost any criminal activity as "terrorism" so that they can either bypass existing laws or take advantage of those written to deal with "terror" you can see that it would be entirely feasible (and in many instances preferable) for the courts to be avoided entirely if you can find some way of tying in terror or the fear thereof.

Most modern organised crime groups have tried to diversify operations to such a degree that you could be involving the Home Office's UK Border Agency along with local social workers (dealing with women who have been illegally brought into the country for the purposes of prostitution for example) to liaising with the Royal Navy who might be tasked with boarding a vessel smuggling drugs or other products into the UK.

With this diversity in activity you can see that if someone in authority hinted that maybe the Organised Crime group could smuggle in terrorists, weapons or other threats then the Task Force should be allowed to use the terror laws they'd have quite different requirements to fulfil.

Finally - most local UK law enforcement does not have the budget to get hold of high quality surveillance equipment nor the required expertise to install or use it. Depending on the available finances of the OC group they may have a budget for counter-intelligence (bug sweeping, disposable mobile phones etc) that is far in excess of that which the local police or any other law enforcement task force can muster.
posted by longbaugh at 5:30 AM on April 7, 2011


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