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Draft Investigatory Powers Bill – law enforcement evidence

The National Crime Agency, National Police Chiefs Council and HM Revenue and Customs submitted a joint law enforcement response to the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

You can read the full response here. In summary, it states that:

Law enforcement welcomes the Government's commitment to clarify and update the law in this vital area of activity. The Bill aims to streamline and update the legislation for law enforcement powers in the areas of communications data, equipment interference and lawful intercept, reinforcing transparency and oversight. We use these powers of investigation to protect the public, preserve life and prevent and detect crime.

The Bill will help ensure that law enforcement can keep pace with the changing use of technology by criminals and find crucial information to protect people at risk of harm .

Whilst criminal groups are able to take advantage of sophisticated developments in technology, law enforcement is currently unable to keep pace, match their capabilities and deliver the same criminal justice outcomes against those operating online as we are able to do in the real world.

The joint response highlights concerns relating to:

  • The definitions of the reasons for which law enforcement can access internet connection records. Examples of how the current proposals would limit law enforcement’s ability to investigate crime and protect people are given in Annex D.
  • Restrictions in the use of equipment interference for serious crime only. Law enforcement considers equipment interference techniques to be essential in emergencies to prevent death or injury, or prevent or mitigate any damage to a person’s physical or mental health. The Bill currently makes no provision for authorising equipment interference for this purpose.
  • The potential for a reduction in the proposed 12 month data retention period.. In a recent child sexual exploitation operation where communications data provided almost the sole investigative route,, the NCA was able to deal with 92 per cent of the requests for communications data. The NCA has calculated that if the period of data retention were reduced to 6 months, only 39 per cent of that data could potentially have been resolved. If it had been reduced to three months, only 13 per cent could potentially have been resolved. This would have had serious implications for our ability to identify offenders and safeguard children at risk.

We do not think it is for law enforcement to comment on the Bill proposals on changes of authorisation and oversight of these powers but we have stressed that any regime must be agile, flexible and supportive of using these powers operationally.

Our response did not address questions that are of no direct relevance to law enforcement, or that may have been answered by other parts of HM Government who are better placed to do so.