The Telegraph reports today that there are more than a thousand phone-tapping applications made (and granted) every day in Britain. The paper is particularly worked up because it is not just the intelligence services and the police but local councils which have the power to do this. That seems to me all of a piece with the general dysfunction of the post-imperial state: it’s hard to be good at anything when you don’t know what you’re for. And I have taken for granted that everyone will tape everything ever since the fights over RIPA. What did make my mind reel, though, were the last sentences of the piece.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: “It beggars belief that in a nine-month period, based on these figures, the entire City of Westminster could have had their phones tapped – yet Britain remains one of the few Western countries that won’t allow this evidence to be used in court … to prosecute criminals and terrorists.”
But Sir Paul [Kennedy, the information commissioner] confirmed that MI5 and other intelligence agencies remain opposed to any change in the law.
What possible creditable reason can there be for collecting all this informaiton without ever using it in court?