Subject-matter of warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:15 pm ar 19 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 6:15, 19 Ebrill 2016

One of the stated purposes of the Bill is to bring together those powers—to cement them and to put in place extra clarification and further safeguards. I have argued throughout that the essence of the Bill is delivering clarity and certainty. I would accept the hon. and learned Lady’s point if she was arguing that, at the moment, the agencies draw on a range of legal bases for what they do, for that is a simple statement of fact. We are all engaged in the business of perfecting the Bill, because we know it is right that these powers are contained in one place, creating greater transparency and greater navigability, and making legislation more comprehensible and more resistant to challenge. That is at the heart of our mission.

I said I would talk about breadth. The breadth of the circumstances in which equipment interference could be used reflects the fact that, at the time of making an application for a warrant, the information initially known about a subject of interest may vary considerably. Last week, we spoke about the kind of case in which there may be an unfolding series of events, such as a kidnapping, where a limited amount might be known at the outset when a warrant is applied for. The warrant’s purpose will be to gather sufficient information as to build up a picture of a network of people involved in a gang or an organised crime. That is very common and I intend to offer some worked examples in a number of areas.

Identifying members of such a gang can often come from interception arising from a thematic warrant. That might apply to interception, but frankly it might also apply to equipment interference where that is a more appropriate and more effective means of finding the information. Another example may be a group of people involved in child sexual exploitation. Frequently, partial information will allow for further exploration of a network of people who are communicating over a wide area, and who are careful about how they communicate, mindful of the activity that they are involved in. They will not be easy to discover or find, as they will very often disguise their identity. For that reason, it may be necessary to start by looking at sites commonly used to share indecent images of children and from there uncover information that leads, through the use of equipment interference, to those who are driving that unhappy practice. Those examples are not merely matters of theory; they are matters of fact. I know that in cases of kidnapping and in cases of child sexual exploitation, those techniques have been used and continue to be used.