Metropolitan Police's use of RIPA 2000

MQT on 2014-10-22
Session date: 
October 22, 2014
Question By: 
Jenny Jones
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Following your comments at the London Press Club Ball on 9 October that "we are going to have to insist in future the police will not be able to see a journalist's phone records without some kind of prior judicial approval" will you now ensure that the Metropolitan Police Service seeks judicial approval to access phone records rather than use RIPA 2000?


Answer for Metropolitan Police's use of RIPA 2000

Answer for Metropolitan Police's use of RIPA 2000

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I cannot use my powers to give immediate effect to the change that I think you want.  This needs to be part of a national framework.  What is happening is that the Home Office is consulting on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) code of practice.  We will be responding as well to that consultation.  I imagine that our response will very largely reflect what I have said earlier on.


Jenny Jones AM:  The thing is I know we are both libertarians and we believe in freedom of speech and also the protection of journalistic sources.  What is happening at the moment is the MPS is using the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) to get access to journalists’ records and for all I know lawyers’ and clients’ records as well.  They only have to ask an inspector from another team and that seems to me far too easy to get.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.


Jenny Jones AM:  What RIPA says is that it ought to be a judge.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I understand that.


Jenny Jones AM:  I would imagine you could say to the Metropolitan Police Service, “Look, it is likely the Conservative Government is going to bring this in.  Could you please do it now, because you are simply not ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not think I do have.  I am not certain that would be ‑‑


Jenny Jones AM:  You could ask, could you not?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ the right thing to do because it is not in my power to direct the police in that way.  They must operate within the existing law and I would be wrong to try to encourage them to do anything else.  What is happening is that ‑‑


Jenny Jones AM:  Do you not think it is a little bit easy at the moment?  Remember that the protection for journalists’ records has been a component of our British system for a long time and it seems to me that using PACE is ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We must be very clear: no one is above the law and there is nothing sacrosanct about a journalist’s records.  Let us be absolutely clear about this.  What we are saying is that it is not reasonable for these records to be produced willy-nilly and that the idea of protection of sources is important if we are going to continue to have a free press, the exposure of wrongdoing and if whistle-blowers are going to continue to come forward.  What we are arguing is that there should be a check on the production of these records ‑‑


Jenny Jones AM:  Do you not think that just asking a mate on another team in the police is willy-nilly?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ and that it should be a judicial check.


Jenny Jones AM:  I am really disappointed.  I really thought you would have a bit more backbone on this.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not think we are in disagreement.  I am interested that you think that I should instruct the police not to obey the existing law.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman): You do not need add to this.  The Green group has run out of time.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All right.  I think we are at one on this.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  I think we know where you --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am delighted that you have escaped custody [Jenny Jones]!


Joanne McCartney AM:  I think Jenny had her legislation the wrong way round.  It is actually that RIPA is too easy to apply for ‑‑


Jenny Jones AM:  I am so sorry.  Yes, that is right.


Joanne McCartney AM:  ‑‑ and it is PACE that has to go before a judge.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is right.


Jenny Jones AM:  It is the impact.