Top UK policeman backs revival of 'snoopers' charter' data bill

The UK’s most senior police officer has backed the Government’s plans to revive the controversial Communications Data Bill, calling for a ‘mature’ discussion on how police tackle cybercrime.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said the introduction of the legislation – often called a ‘snoopers’ charter’ by critics – had been delayed too long during the previous parliament.

He warned that unless police are given powers and tools to improve the intelligence-gathering, we are at a loss in terms of tackling terrorists.

The Bill, which would increase the data collected about people’s online activity, was shelved in 2013 after the Liberal Democrats opposed it. It is now thought that Home Secretary Theresa May will return the proposals to the agenda after the recent Tory election victory.

“It is a welcome development, and a vital one, which had been delayed too long under the coalition government,” Sir Bernard said.

Talking about digital evidence used in investigations, he said: “We need help, because in some areas it’s going dark. If we cannot get this data for whatever reason we are going to struggle to investigate and prosecute. Unless we plug that gap, the only people who can win are the terrorists.”

Police blamed the Snowden revelations about surveillance operations by intelligence agencies for making it more difficult to monitor threats.

Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner, said: “We are dealing with this in a world where intelligence coverage is increasingly hard to achieve, particularly in the post-Snowden environment, and we are dealing with more and more ambiguity.

“That ambiguity is created firstly by so much taking place on social media and you can't observe it all, but you've also got people trying to propagate attacks by using social media, trying to recruit people across countries.

“Our ability to penetrate that post-Snowden is less good than it was, our visibility is less good than it was, which I think is why the Government is wrestling with potentially more legislation to try and repair powers that we are losing.”

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