POLICE and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire Martin Surl has weighed in on controversial surveillance legislation which has been fast tracked through Parliament.
Martin Surl was the Police and Crime Commissioner who originally urged other PCCs to write to Theresa May about the need for a new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, or Drip, drawing on his experience with counterterrorism after the 7/7 bombings.
Just over half of the UK’s 41 Police and Crime Commissioners wrote to Home Secretary to show their support for the legislation.
Mr Surl said: “It is vitally important that our laws keep pace with developments in technology. This is about maintaining existing capabilities, not introducing new snooping laws”
“The police have long been able to identify anyone who has made a telephone call or sent an SMS text message, when and from where - but they are legally prohibited from doing the same for email, internet telephony, instant messaging or other internet-based services because communications service providers do not retain all of the relevant data.
He added that in time there ought to be an opportunity for the legislation to be reviewed, including the views of civil liberties groups.
He concluded by saying: “Emergency legislation is rarely perfect but there is an important balance to be struck between confidentiality and national security.”
The Act was announced and passed in just eight days in bid to return to the status quo of electronic surveillance.
This was made necessary after the Court of Justice of the European Union declared current levels of surveillance a breach of our basic rights in April this year.
The new Act will allow police and security services to continue to access phone and internet records detailing but also includes provisions that have more far reaching effects.
Despite receiving cross-party support the Act has been slammed by civil liberty groups and a group of technology experts have also expressed their concern about what the powers will mean for the UK.
In an open letter to the government they wrote: “The legislation goes far beyond simply authorising data retention in the UK.
“In fact, DRIP attempts to extend the territorial reach of the British interception powers, expanding the UK’s ability to mandate the interception of communications content across the globe.
“It introduces powers that are not only completely novel in the United Kingdom, they are some of the first of their kind globally.”