Intercept Evidence

Lifting the ban

“Intercept evidence may not be a silver bullet but it is a bullet nonetheless. The time has come for the UK to join the ranks of common law countries that allow such ammunition in the fight against terrorism.”

The UK is the only country in the common law world that prohibits completely the use of intercepted communications as evidence in criminal proceedings. This report argues that the UK government’s ban is archaic, unnecessary and counter-productive.

Since 9/11, the lack of admissible evidence in terrorism cases has been cited by the government as justification for such exceptional measures as indefinite detention without trial and, more recently, the use of control orders involving the use of special advocates and secret evidence.

  • Part 1 of this report provides an overview of the intercept evidence debate, including the definition of intercepted communications and the legal framework provided by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
  • Part 2 examines the various arguments put forward by the government justifying the ban, and presents arguments in favour of its use.
  • Part 3 looks at the use of intercept evidence under the European Convention on Human Rights and in the other common law jurisdictions that use the same adversarial system of criminal proceedings as the UK: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, South Africa and the United States.
  • The Appendix sets out statements of support for the use of intercept evidence made by senior police, prosecutors, lawyers and politicians. It also contains a table setting out the comparative use of intercept evidence in common law jurisdictions.


1 October 2006

Download a copy of Intercept Evidence