‘Being on our radar does not necessarily mean being under our microscope’: The Regulation and Retention of Police Intelligence

Jamie Grace, Marion Oswald

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The doctrinal development as a prompt for this piece was the recent decision in the Supreme Court in the case of R (Catt and T) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] UKSC 9. This failure of two conjoined attempts through judicial review to have information thoroughly deleted from police databases, in relation to two rather different sets of circumstances and policy pressures, is a landmark judgment in the surveillance and privacy law field as a whole. The judgment of the Supreme Court in Catt is discussed in detail in a later Part of this piece. Suffice to say, for a quick introduction to the case, that Catt in the Supreme Court was a successful appeal by the Metropolitan Police, in the form of a 4-1 split judgment in their favour. John Catt ultimately lost his case after seeking the deletion of text-based records from databases operated by a police unit with a national anti-extremism intelligence remit. In Part 1 of this piece we aim to give an introduction to some of the tensions that arise between privacy and human rights, versus police efficacy and operational pressures, in the context of intelligence gathering, analysis and retention. In Part 2, we move on to consider the concepts of information and analysis as comprising 'police intelligence' found in some of the academic literature as it currently exists on the topic. Part 3 of this piece in turn provides a short review of concepts and practices in relation to electronic intelligence databases in operation by the police more broadly, and across different police jurisdictions and cultures; while Part 4 see us address the police use of intelligence databases in the UK context more specifically. Parts 5, 6 and 7 in turn see us address and analyse police intelligence retention and regulation as a human rights issue; the recent Supreme Court decision in Catt; and then give a broader commentary and critique of the Supreme Court decision in Catt. In Part 8 of this piece we evaluate some recent changes to guidance on the retention and deletion of police records made following the decision by the Supreme Court in Catt. Concluding our piece, in Part 9, we highlight some conclusions and recommendations we feel we can make as to i) the shifting and advancing realities of police database technology and surveillance through electronic records generally, ii) definitional and doctrinal problems presented by varying concepts in play with regard to what is meant by 'police intelligence', and iii) the need for a single national regulator in the field of police intelligence more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalEuropean Journal of Current Legal Issues
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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