SFO’s snooping powers under threat

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The recommendation was made by the government chief surveillance commissioner Sir Andrew Leggatt because the SFO has decided against training its staff into how to operate surveillance operations including Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) – used for tailing and observing suspects.

Telephone tapping and mail interception are not covered by the recommendation and the report suggests the police could carry out the other functions affected.

Following an inspection of the SFO, Sir Andrew wrote in his annual report: ‘The SFO reported a policy decision that it would be an unjustifiable use of resources to train and maintain its own personnel to conduct directed surveillance and manage any potential informant.

‘I regret it is contrary to principle that any public authority should enjoy a statutory power which its officers are not trained and equipped to exercise properly, because so long as the power it enjoyed its officers cannot be prevented from using it, whatever their level of proficiency of lack of it.

‘The SFO has not suggested there are any covert activities for the conduct of which they cannot call upon the police.

‘In these circumstances it is up to the secretary of state to decide whether to exercise his power under Section 30(5) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIP) to amend schedule one by removing the SFO from that schedule.’

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