Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Sorry Not Enough, Admits Force Chief; Police Acted Unlawfully. Now External Review to Be Held

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Sorry Not Enough, Admits Force Chief; Police Acted Unlawfully. Now External Review to Be Held

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVE ROBSON dave.robson@trinitymirror.com @Daverobson_gaz

CLEVELAND POLICE acted unlawfully in seizing phone records to track down a series of leaks, a panel of top judges has ruled.

And following the judgment, the force yesterday confirmed it was bringing in an external force to review the findings.

A written judgment from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, released yesterday, backs complaints made by former officers Mark Dias and Stephen Matthews.

The case revolved around Cleveland Police using surveillance powers to look at four months of call data - more than a million minutes' worth - including records of former officers Dias and Matthews, solicitor Alan Samuels and local and national news reporters.

Officers were trying to find out who had leaked information about an internal grievance, and an internal report which had uncovered "institutional racism" within the force.

The tribunal considered the issue in December but the judgment was reserved until yesterday. It has now been sent for consideration to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor.

The judgment emphasised that the two officers involved did not commit any criminal offences, hence the phone monitoring was "unlawful". Whatever the "subjective belief" of the force, "there was no lawful basis" for obtaining applications to seize phone records under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in 2012. Reacting to the ruling, Cleveland Police say they are now arranging for another police force "to come in and independently assess the judgment in respect of any conduct or criminal matters in line with laid down regulations."

A spokesperson said: "We feel that this independence is important, taking into account the matters raised, and the assessment will determine any next steps. We will seek for this to be done as quickly as possible."

Reacting to the decision, Cleveland Police Chief Constable Iain Spittal said: "When we get things wrong, as we did here, we will say sorry and work to make things right. …

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