The Associations of Chief Police Officers and HM Customs and Excise Public Statement on Standards in Covert Law Enforcement Techniques

Journal of Power and Ethics, April 2001 | Go to article overview

The Associations of Chief Police Officers and HM Customs and Excise Public Statement on Standards in Covert Law Enforcement Techniques


Declaration on ethical standards and covert investigative techniques

The principal United Kingdom law enforcement agencies* are committed to the maintenance of working practices which observe their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

* This declaration is jointly issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association qf Chief Police Officers in Scotland, Her Majesty's Chstoms and Excise and the Directors General of the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service.

Those working practices seek to achieve a balance between the requirement to work within a defined framework for the safeguarding of civil liberties and the maintenance of a robust approach to the tackling of crime and criminality. This document sets out in general terms:

Part 1 the case for covert law enforcement techniques in the light of the threat from serious crime and criminality;

Part 2 the ethical precepts to which the law enforcement agencies subscribe in the conduct of covert operations;

Part 3 the commitment of the law enforcement agencies to common standards of integrity in the collection, storage and use of intelligence and sensitive investigative material;

Part 4 the commitment of the law enforcement agencies to the auditing of standards and the provision of effective complaints and redress procedures for infringements of rights conferred by the Convention.

The case for covert law enforcement techniques The threat from crime

Serious crime and organised criminality are corrosive of civilised society. The growth in the threat from crime has been acknowledged both by Parliament and the courts in the provision of increased powers for law enforcement and in support for the principle of public interest immunity in the defence of both intelligence sources and those sensitive investigative techniques, the revelation of which to determined criminals would undermine the continuing operational effectiveness of the techniques.

The law enforcement agencies seek to tackle the consequences of serious crime and organised criminality at several levels simultaneously:

* to mitigate the effects of criminal behaviour and violent disorder which degrade environments and diminish the quality of life whether through the reality or the fear of crime or through the destruction of the atribition and opportunities of the young by the marketing of narcotics;

* to mitigate the damage done to the administrative, financial and business infrastructure of society by the corruption of legitimate authority and business activity, and by the syphoning of profits;

* to mitigate the damage done to public confidence in the criminal justice system and to the rule of law by those who intimidate or suborn witnesses, who promote the corruption of law enforcement officers, who exploit weaknesses in national and international jurisdictions and who seek to discover and disable advances in investigative techniques.

The intelligence requirement

The challenge offered to law enforcement agencies is to design and sustain, within the rule of law, preventive and investigative techniques that meet the requirements of each of the described levels. The key to effective law enforcement stratagems is the ability to describe and analyse the nature of the criminal problem.

Such a description and analysis are products of the effective collection of intelligence. The tackling of serious crime and organised criminality requires:

* that criminal motivation be understood;

* that the extent of networking, organisation and interdependence of individual criminals and criminal groups be capable of description and their strengths and weaknesses be understood;

* that the methods of criminal businesses and their market positions be similarly described and understood;

* that law enforcement officers stay abreast of developing criminal tactics in both the commission of crime and attempts to frustrate investigators and the courts, and that the reasons why individuals, groups and business are targeted as victims of crime be equally well understood. …

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