Met Police Commissioner slammed for his public support of the Government’s Communications Data Bill
Tory MP Dominic Raab accuses him of being ‘deeply unprofessional’ and jeopardising principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’
Bill would force communications companies to store data on every website visit, email, text message and social network use for 12 months
Britain’s most senior police officer was accused of playing politics yesterday after he gave his full backing to Government plans to monitor the public’s every internet click.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe endorsed a draft law that critics claim amounts to a snoopers’ charter, saying that in some cases it could be a matter of ‘life or death’.
His actions were branded ‘deeply unprofessional’ and prompted calls for official censure.
Mr Hogan-Howe’s intervention in the Communications Data Bill was compared to that of former Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair, who was accused of lobbying for a Labour plan to allow terrorism suspects to be detained for up to 90 days and also backed controversial ID cards.
Tory MP Dominic Raab said: ‘Just as it was wrong for Sir Ian Blair to lobby for the flawed ID card scheme, it is deeply unprofessional for Commissioner Hogan-Howe to lobby for Big Brother surveillance.
‘It politicises our police and undermines public trust. It’s also shocking that he wants more surveillance powers to “eliminate innocent people from an investigation”.
‘In this country, we’re innocent until proven guilty – not the other way round.’
Former shadow home secretary David Davis, one of the most outspoken critics of the proposed law, said: ‘He will have done his reputation no end of harm by getting involved in this process.’
He said that after Sir Ian spoke out on 90 days detention he was seen as a Government spokesman and, if not careful, the same would be said of Mr Hogan-Howe.
He added: ‘The truth of the matter is this is a highly political issue and the police should stay out of it.’
Mr Hogan-Howe made the comments yesterday in an article for The Times, in which he brought the 2005 Soham murder investigation into his argument, saying police were able to disprove Ian Huntley’s alibi that he did not kill schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by looking at his phone and text records.
He also appeared alongside Home Secretary Theresa May at a press conference to promote the draft Communications Data Bill.
If made law, it will give ministers powers to demand that internet companies store data on every website visit, email, text message and visit to social networking sites for a minimum of 12 months.
Police and security services would not have access to the content of messages, but would know who was contacted, when and by what method.
The Bill is expected to face fierce criticism from Lib Dem and Tory backbenchers when it is scrutinised by Parliament.
Currently, police can access information that is stored automatically by internet companies, but they say that 25 per cent of the data is not logged, leaving a loophole for determined criminals.
Mrs May said that without the new powers, offenders would go free. ‘We will see people walking the streets who should be behind bars,’ she said.
Sitting alongside her, Mr Hogan-Howe claimed the proposals were no more intrusive than current laws.
But in facing repeated questions over whether he was right to intervene so publicly, the Commissioner accepted there was a risk of the police becoming politicised over the issue.
‘You could say there is a risk [of politicisation], but the thing I’m passionate about is making sure criminals can’t get away with crime,’ he said.
‘If that’s regarded as political, it’s a sorry state of affairs.’
By Jack Doyle
PUBLISHED: 23:14 GMT, 14 June 2012 | UPDATED: 23:14 GMT, 14 June 2012
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