» Tuesday, March 30, 2004

PM Speech

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) drew journalists’ attention to a passage in the Prime Minister’s speech on crime today in which he had said, “Currently, interception of communications or intrusive surveillance can be authorized under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), against any offender who is likely to commit a serious offence. This is defined as an offence which, if committed by an individual over 21 with no previous convictions, is likely to attract a sentence of at least three years imprisonment.

“The Met believe that the threshold is too high for intrusive surveillance and prevents them from carrying out such activity on people who may be prolific offenders but whose offending has not reached the level required by the Act.

“We will review this situation with them and, if necessary, legislate to give the police the powers they need.”

The PMOS pointed journalists to a further passage in the Prime Minister’s speech in which he had talked about 5,000 people “who are the most prolific offenders, the most persistently anti-social in their behaviour and who pose the greatest threat to the safety and confidence of their local communities. This hard core of offenders may include local gang leaders, drug dealers, vandals, car thieves and others whose prolific anti-social behaviour is causing most harm to local neighbourhoods”.

Asked why the Government was drawing up additional legislation when Louise Casey, the head of the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit, had said that old legislation should be implemented first, the PMOS said that that this should be seen as a two-pronged signal from the Prime Minister. As he had made clear, we had given local councils and others new anti-social behaviour powers which could be used against offenders. Both communities and the Government expected them to be used. However, the police believed that the surveillance powers to target individuals who were prolific offenders were not sufficient. Today’s announcement was about a possible extension of an existing power, rather than any new initiative.

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