Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Snooping Powers 'Needed to Jail Jihadis' Dpp Warning on Returned

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Snooping Powers 'Needed to Jail Jihadis' Dpp Warning on Returned

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Bentham Home Affairs Editor exclusive

DANGEROUS terrorists who have fought in Syria will be left "walking the streets" if intelligence agencies and police lose access to vital surveillance data, Britain's top prosecutor warned today.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said information gleaned from computers, phones and emails was playing a crucial role in bringing returning Islamic State extremists to justice -- and revealed that there has been an "alarming" rise in the number of terror cases.

She also said the surge in Syria-related cases was so great that the Crown Prosecution Service is having to double the size of its counterterrorism unit to cope and warned of serious consequences if data from surveillance can no longer be obtained. Ms Saunders' comments came in an interview with the Evening Standard and follow the publication by Home Secretary Theresa May of a draft Investigatory Powers Bill designed to update state surveillance powers. It will give Britain's spies and police a range of powers.

These include the ability to access phone and internet connection records, the right to harvest "bulk data" and the authority to hack computers, phones and other devices. Critics claim that the powers, which are subject to judicial oversight and other safeguards, are too extensive.

But Ms Saunders said the use of evidence gathered by surveillance was critical as she added her voice to those of other law enforcement chiefs who support preservation of the powers. "We rely on communications data in a large number of cases and if we didn't have the data then in some cases we would not be able to prosecute," she said.

"That would make it particularly difficult in the cases where we are prosecuting people returning from Syria and if we weren't able to prosecute them they would be on the streets, rather than in custody.

Ms Saunders highlighted the rising number of terror cases that are being passed to prosecutors by police, adding: "Much of the increase has been people returning from Syria. …

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