Parliament routinely grants massive powers to the police and demonstrates an awful lot of trust in the police not abusing these powers. So it is very alarming when it seems that the police are indeed found to be abusing their powers.
Every police force in the UK is to be asked by a parliamentary committee to reveal how many times they have secretly snooped on journalists by obtaining their telephone and email records without their consent.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said he wanted a detailed breakdown of police use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to force telecoms companies to hand over phone records without customers' knowledge.
His intervention comes after it emerged that police investigating the former MP Chris Huhne's speeding fraud secretly obtained a Mail on Sunday reporter's phone records without his consent , despite laws protecting journalistic confidential sources.
The newspaper said it had learned that officers from Kent police used laws designed for anti-terrorism to identify a source they had failed to secure through a court application.
It is the second time in a month that revelations have emerged of the police secretly ordering phone companies to hand over journalists' phone bills, fuelling fears that media organisations will not be able to protect sources, particularly police
In September it emerged accidentally that the Metropolitan police had obtained the Sun's newsdesk telephone records and those of its political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, to try to identify who had leaked it the Plebgate story about the former Tory chief
whip Andrew Mitchell's altercation with police at the gates of Downing Street.
Update: Simon Hughes will ask the police to consult a judge before snooping on journalists' sources
13th October 2014. See article
The UK government will reform the law to prevent the police using surveillance powers to discover journalistic sources, the justice minister, Simon Hughes, has confirmed in the wake of growing outcry at the misuse of powers.
Hughes said the police's use of powers had been entirely inappropriate and in future it would require the authorisation of a judge for police forces to be given approval to access journalists' phone records in pursuit of a criminal investigation.
He said the presumption would be that if a journalist was acting in the public interest, they would be protected.
Speaking on Sky News's Murnaghan programme, Hughes added that if the police made an application to a court he would assume a journalist would be informed that the authorities were seeking to access his phone records. He said:
The principle has to be a) freedom of expression, b) journalists have a job to do and there is a public interest defence available to all journalists so you would be able to argue that case.