Doormat-ologist needed

Caspar Bowden (travelling private e-mail) tharg at
Wed Sep 8 02:26:02 BST 2010

Doormat-ologists' opinion please of:
.Addressing the home affairs select committee today John Yates, the
assistant Metropolitan police commissioner, repeated earlier claims by
police that cases of hacking into voicemails could only be prosecuted if the
victim had not yet listened to their messages.
"That is nonsense, and a recurring problem with this police position in this
case," said Simon McKay, author of Covert Policing Law & Practice. "The
police are getting confused about a number of things relating to the
evidential status of a voicemail.
"The law is that in the nanosecond between someone's voice being converted
into an electromagnetic system and being transmitted to the recipient who
listens to the voicemail, that's the course of transmission. At some point
between these two points the hacker has been diverting a copy for his own
use, and that is an offence."

Experts say that although the law under the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), which governs the interception of phone
communications, is complex, draft government guidelines clarify the
illegality of hacking into voicemails.
Those guidelines on the use of the act states that it is illegal to
intercept communications "at any time when the communication is being stored
on the communication system in such a way as to enable the intended
recipient to have access to it", which experts say includes voicemails.

"I don't know where the police are getting this interpretation from," a
senior lawyer close to the case said. "It's well known that Ripa is not the
clearest piece of legislation, but these guidelines seem pretty clear."

The Crown Prosecution Service said that it stood by its interpretation of
the law, which it gave during evidence to the culture, media and sport
select committee in July 2009.

"We stand by what we said to the committee and do not wish to add to it
except to say that in bringing the prosecution we interpreted the relevant
law following careful consideration and advice from very experienced
counsel," a CPS spokesperson said.

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