Home Secretary Theresa May did not rule out Government backing for the Save Our Sources legal amendment when it goes before Parliament on Monday.
The Liberal Democrats have proposed an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill which would ensure police forces must get the approval of a judge before viewing journalists’ phone records for the purpose of investigating crime.
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The amendment was drafted by Hacked Off directors Evan Harris and Hugh Tomlinson QC.
Following the publication of a report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner on 4 February, which found police forces had secretly viewed the phone records of 82 journalists in three years, the Government has agreed to a change in the law to ensure future judicial oversight of this power.
But the Government has yet to reveal how this will happen and whether there will be any change before the May general election.
May was speaking in London last night at the Stephen Lawrence memorial lecture.
Harris said: “In terms of exposing police corruption whistleblowers are critical and whistleblowers must be protected as they must be when they are journalists’ sources.”
And he asked the Home Secretary whether she will be supporting the amendment to the Serious Crime Bill.
She said: “The Government has accepted the Commissioner’s recommendation that there should be judicial oversight for communications data requests in relation to journalists’ sources. How it is going to be possible to put that into practice is a question that we are working on very carefully at the moment.
"I can’t give you an answer on the specific amendment that is down precisely because we are trying to work through the various legal aspects to explore how that can be done and how best that can be done.”
The proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill is going before Parliament at the Report stage of the bill in the House of Commons on Monday.
The amendment has been tabled by Julian Huppert MP (Lib Dem) and has supporters from all the main political parties including: David Davis (Con), Caroline Lucas (Green) and Tom Watson (Labour).
The proposed law change follows Press Gazette's Save Our Sources campaign launched in September following the revelation the Met Police had secretly viewed the phone records of The Sun in order to find Plebgate whistleblowers.