As reported in The Daily Mail:
Police won’t need judges’ OK to snoop on reporters: Home Office embroiled in fresh Press freedom row after sneaking out plans
The Home Office was embroiled in a fresh row over Press freedom last night after sneaking out proposals that would still allow police to sign off their own snooping into journalists’ phone records.
Ministers had promised safeguards to prevent police misusing anti-terror powers to unmask potentially embarrassing confidential sources who blow the whistle to reporters.
Campaigners, including MPs and barristers, wanted laws forcing the police to apply to judges before using the snooping legislation against journalists, rather than merely an officer of superintendent rank or above.
But proposals unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May made clear forces could continue to authorise their own applications for journalists’ telecoms data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).
The new Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data Code of Practice also stated that the phone records of journalists, lawyers and even MPs are not privileged.
The Home Office was also attacked for sneaking the guidelines out late on Tuesday at the same time as a US report exposing torture by the CIA.
Tory MP David Davis said: ‘The new proposed codes of practice fall far short of what is required.
Without judicial oversight of the process, with a full judicial consideration for any request to handle any confidential or privileged information, we are likely to see more of the sort of abuses that have become so unfortunately commonplace.
‘This is an inappropriate and improper ruling; it could, for example, put whistleblowers at risk.
‘As they stand, the proposed changes will bring little accountability or transparency to the use of communications data. The Government should ban either interception or collection of metadata without explicit approval by a judge for journalists and lawyers.’
The 55-page code of conduct was published follows a storm over two high-profile investigations in which detectives secretly accessed data to discover who had been passing information about senior politicians accused of wrongdoing.
Metropolitan Police detectives used the secretly obtained call records of The Sun’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn to find and sack three officers found to have lawfully leaked information about the Plebgate incident.
And Kent Police investigating the Chris Huhne speeding points scandal used Ripa to secretly obtain the phone records of a journalist on The Mail on Sunday and one of his sources, even though a judge had ruled the source should remain confidential.