Monday, 10 August 2015

Save your sources

Since last month, I have written articles for the Sunday Herald/Herald on police using surveillance legislation to establish contact between journalists and their sources.

The sterling work of the Press Gazette last year led to the law being changed in this area.

From March 25th, police must seek judicial approval to access details of our phone records, texts and emails.

However, as the Sunday Herald revealed, Police Scotland is one of two forces to have breached these new rules.

The row over this individual violation will rumble on, but a wider question is whether Police Scotland used this tactic before March.

The IOCCO, which monitors the use of the RIPA, reported earlier this year that police forces had applied for communications data (in relation to journalists and their sources) on hundreds of occasions.

Any journalist who writes about the single force and is concerned their phone records/texts may have been accessed can respond in a constructive way.

A Subject Access Request (SAR) gives citizens a qualified right to all information held on them by ‘data controllers’, which includes public bodies.

I suggest journalists who have written public interest stories on Police Scotland click on the following link and print off the form:

In the ‘any other information box’ (second box from the bottom) it would be wise to ask for the following:

-          - All applications for communications data relating to [you] in relation to Police Scotland
-          - The results of all applications for communications data relating to [you] in relation to Police Scotland
-          - All information held on [you] by the single force's Counter Corruption Unit

A SAR will cost you £10. The National Union of Journalists in Scotland is encouraging reporters to go down this route. I agree.