To Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore,
CC East Anglian Daily Times
Dear Mr Passmore,
Following the report in the East Anglian Daily Times that Suffolk Police used terrorism powers to snoop on the phone records of a journalist on that paper, I write to ask what action you will take to prevent this happening in the future.
I trust you will remind Suffolk Police’s Chief Constable that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was supposed to be used for investigating terrorists and serious crime, not for spying on journalists who are trying to do their job.
The right of journalists to protect their sources is an essential plank in our freedom as a democratic country. As a journalist myself, I am aware how dangerous it is for bodies like the police to begin hunting down people who reveal the truth to the media. The duty of a journalist is to expose the truth, to report news that others do not want reported. The duty of the police is to prevent crime, not hinder journalists from getting at the truth.
The comments reported in the East Anglian Daily Times by Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Wilson are not reassuring. Instead of admitting the police made a mistake, he seems to be justifying their behaviour by saying that there was an alleged “inappropriate communication” between a journalist and a member of the police.
By this he seems to mean a leak. How is a leak remotely related to a serious crime or act of terrorism?
Thankfully RIPA, which should never have passed into the statue books, looks set to be modified. In the meantime, Mr Passmore, please find out how many times Suffolk Police have used RIPA to investigate journalists and make clear that it was, is and always will be unacceptable to use it to find the sources of “leaks” to the press.
Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for South Suffolk