Lawyers challenging police secrecy over spying on journalists' call records ready to take fight to European Court

A lawyer handling Press Gazette's bid to make police disclose how many times they have accessed journalists' phone records has pledged to take the case as far as the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

An appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office – challenging police forces' blanket refusal to answer questions about their use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – was submitted last month.

The 3,000-word appeal document calls for nine forces to reveal how many times they accessed journalists' phone records between 2011 and 2014. The challenge also takes issue with forces branding Press Gazette FoI questions on this issue as "vexatious".

Representing Press Gazette on a pro bono basis is Caroline Kean, a partner and head of litigation at Wiggin LLP,  Eileen Weinert, an assistant solicitor at Wiggin, and barrister Robin Hopkins, who specialises in information law at 11KBW.

Kean told Press Association that the need to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources is crucial to safeguard a free press in a democratic society, and there was a public interest in knowing if journalists were routinely subject to RIPA surveillance without any consideration of their profession and their obligations of professional secrecy.

"We are absolutely prepared to take this as far as we can," she said.

"We will go to the European Court of Human Rights – we are absolutely prepared to put ourselves behind the industry's newspaper to take it all the way."

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