31 Jan 2017

Police unlawfully seized phone records of journalists and other police officers

Cleveland Police have been found to have unlawfully used surveillance powers on police officers and local journalists during a 2012 investigation into the source of various leaks.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that the force unlawfully accessed months of mobile phone records and abused Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) laws.

The IPT said that there was no case justifying the obtaining of communications data from Acting Inspector Mark Dias, Chairman of the local branch of the Police Federation, Steve Matthews, and reporters from the Northern Echo newspaper.

Mr Dias said there should be a criminal investigation into the actions of some senior officers because the force “fabricated evidence within a malicious investigation and lied on surveillance applications.”

Solicitor for Steve Matthews, Scott Taylor, described the ruling as “a damning indictment of Cleveland Police.”

He said, “civilians and other police officers alike need to know how widespread this abuse of powers has been and what will be done about it.”

Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, Iain Spittal, has apologised and set a review of the force’s Professional Standards Department.

Copies of the IPT judgement are to be sent to the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Sir Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Last November the force was ordered to pay more that £450,000 to an Asian officer for years of racist abuse.