Earlier in the year we published a report on the growing use of private investigators by local and public authorities, warning that they were being used without RIPA authorisation. Now the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is facing serious calls for it to publish its list of companies and individuals who used corrupt private investigators to obtain personal information.
Attempting to keep this information secret will rightly be seen as an attempt to cover up SOCAs colossal failure to enforce the law. It also reinforces the view that the police are all too willing to use hollow security concerns as a way of hiding their own failings.
Members of Parliament from both the Labour and Conservative parties have raised concerns about the lack of transparency from SOCA, with Stella Creasy MP, a Labour home affairs spokesman, writing to Trevor Pearce, SOCA’s director-general, to ask why a list of 101 of the investigators’ clients it has handed to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee must remain closed.
The Conservative MP David Davis has also called for the list to be made public, saying: “Yet again a police agency is hiding behind excessive secrecy. It is simply not acceptable for SOCA to withhold information of serious public interest three years after the event under the excuse of an ‘on going police investigation’.”
The Independent revealed that banks, pharmaceutical, law, insurance and financial services companies have used private investigators for years to get private data, for example through mobile phone records and bank statements.
The fact that SOCA have repeatedly failed to act on the industrial invasion of people’s privacy by blue chip companies and their investigators is a matter of great public concern and the Home Affairs committee must take every step to ensure the serious questions raised are answered, and answered publicly. It is only right that every one of these crimes is dealt with to the full extent of the law, and those responsible for turning a blind eye are held accountable and properly punished.