'Vacuum' over phone-hacking regulation

Phone-hacking regulation has unearthed regulation gaps
Phone-hacking regulation has unearthed regulation gaps

By politics.co.uk staff

Legislation controlling phone-hacking is fragmented and needs greater clarity, the information commissioner has told MPs.

Christopher Graham, giving evidence to the Commons' home affairs committee for its inquiry into phone-hacking allegations, said his role was "frankly pretty limited".

The Metropolitan police is conducting a fresh investigation into allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World newspaper, after the long-running scandal forced David Cameron's director of communications Andy Coulson to resign last year.

Mr Graham said he was "only a small part of the solution" and that the law was "very, very clear" and "very, very uneven".

"There is a mosaic of regulation covering an area which is now very current but perhaps in 2000 wasn't," he said.

"Ripa [the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000] was drafted for the wiretap age. We're not talking about the internet, online behavioural advertising... and yet there are a series of commissioners working away in different parts of the wood."

He said the four relevant positions - his own and those of the interception of communications commissioner, the surveillance commissioner and the interim CCTV commissioner were in charge of different aspects of legislation.

They have not met together in the last two years but are set to do so by the end of next month, Mr Graham said, after he wrote a letter to them requesting more cooperation.

"I do stress the fact I've taken initiative to bring my colleagues together is to make sure we synchronise our swimming," he added.

"This is not a land grab - I've got quite enough to do, thank you very much."

The committee's inquiry has seen a public dispute develop between Scotland Yard's John Yates and the Crown Prosecution Service's director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer.

Mr Yates told MPs that under existing legislation police could only bring charges where hacked messages had been listened to before their intended recipient had heard them.

Mr Starmer submitted a letter contradicting this, stating that the Computer Misuse Act made prosecutions possible whether the intended recipient had heard the message or not.


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