Police 'Spying' Motion Lodged

5 August 2015, 12:18

Police Scotland is coming under renewed pressure to "come clean'' over whether the force has been "spying and snooping'' on journalists.

Labour has lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament demanding "full transparency from the Scottish Government about what exactly it knows regarding the allegations about spying on journalists and their sources''.

It comes after the Sunday Herald alleged that Police Scotland is one of two forces in the UK which has illegally monitored communications between journalists and their contacts.

Police should get the approval of a judge before using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to identify a journalist's sources.

But the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office said it had "identified that two police forces had acquired communications data to identify the interactions between journalists and their sources without obtaining judicial approval''.

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Hugh Henry said Police Scotland "owe it the public to come clean''.

Mr Henry told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning the force needed to "get the facts on the table'' and "either tell us they did it or tell us they didn't''.

The former justice minister said: "If Police Scotland has been breaking the rules, then Police Scotland is responsible to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament.

"Police Scotland need to come up front and the Scottish Government should be asking Police Scotland are they one of the forces identified? Did they break the rules? Did they ignore the code?''

Police Scotland came into being in 2013 when eight regional police forces were merged into one national body.

The force, which is headed by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, has come in for criticism over its use of stop-and-search powers and the deployment of armed officers on routine duties.

Last month, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson ordered Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to carry out an urgent review of police call handling after the force took three days to respond to a call about a car crash which resulted in the death of a couple.

Mr Henry said: "We already have one investigation authorised by the Scottish Government and instructed by the Scottish Government, I think something as serious as this, using surveillance techniques and breaking the rules, has got to be investigated.

"If the police are breaking the rules of spying and snooping, then the public needs to be assured that something will be done.''

He added that if the allegations about spying were correct "frankly it's just another indication of the lack of leadership at the top and the need for change''.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "IOCCO has clearly set out its rationale for not identifying organisations in its report and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.''