The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Phone tapping: Senior officers call for law change to permit phone-tap evidence at inquests

Senior Metropolitan police officers are supporting calls to change the law so that phone-tap evidence can be heard at inquests.

The calls have come after the shooting by police of Mark Duggan, an event which sparked rioting in Tottenham last summer.

Under the current law, the existence and content of any intercept evidence cannot be disclosed to a coroner or be heard in a public court. This is an exception, however, as almost all other types of surveillance evidence, including that obtained from bugging and surveillance cameras are permitted to be given to any court.

The law has led to a delay in the holding of the inquest into Mr Duggan's death, which is now scheduled to be held next year, but which officers accept may never actually take place. Mr Duggan's family remain in the dark about the events of last August.

Mr Duggan was shot dead by armed police in Tottenham last August as they attempted to arrest him. Evidence suggests that he was armed at the time, but this has not been confirmed.

Speaking to the Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Duggan's aunt Carole said: "We're still as in the dark now as we were in the beginning. We as a family believe that Mark was executed on the streets of London by the Metropolitan police. All the information is being withheld from us."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating the shooting of Mr Duggan, said yesterday that its hands were tied by the legislation. They say that although the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) allows a Crown Court judge or prosecutor to view intercept evidence in private, a coroner does not have the same power under the Act.

Deborah Glass is deputy chair of the IPCC; she is extremely frustrated by the provision of the RIPA law, which she says is preventing the IPCC from revealing significant information unearthed during its investigation into the case.

"Our principal statutory duty is to secure and maintain confidence in the police complaints system and one way in which this can be achieved is by ensuring that there is proper public scrutiny when someone dies at the hands of the state," she said.

Mr Duggan's inquest is not the first to be delayed due to the provisions of RIPA. The inquest into the death of Azelle Rodney, shot by police in 2005, is also being delayed by the same legislation.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

What are the duties of a coroner? (FindLaw)