Call for tighter control of police interception powers

A GOVERNMENT minister's comment that legally privileged material should not normally be intercepted by the police has prompted a renewed bid by the Law Society to secure a tightening up of the Police Bill.

As the Bill stands, a chief police officer can authorise interception of material covered by legal professional privilege so long as prior consent is obtained from a commissioner. Prior consent is not needed in an emergency.

But at committee stage in the House of Commons last week, David Maclean, minister of state for the Home Office, said the Government's intention was that legally privileged material should not be intercepted unless there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the solicitor was involved in a criminal enterprise with his client.

The Law Society will now be pressing for an amendment so that this intention is made clear in the Bill. It is also pressing for clarification of the status of interviews between solicitors and clients which take place in police cells or prisons.

Maclean said such conversations were not covered by the Bill. This means that, although inadmissible as evidence in court, the conversations could be bugged and might get into the hands of the CPS.