Suffolk: Police spent £700k in seven years on electronic data

Police appeal for van driver to come forward

Police appeal for van driver to come forward - Credit: Archant

SUFFOLK Constabulary has paid mobile phone companies and internet service providers more than £700,000 over the past seven years.

Police have said the money had to be spent in order to gain evidence and intelligence for a range of inquiries since 2005/06.

The constabulary released the figures as a result of a Freedom of Information request.

The largest outlay was in 2006/07 when expenditure for information from mobile phones and the internet amounted to £156,525.

Operation Sumac, the large-scale inquiry which led to the capture of Steve Wright after five sex workers were murdered in Ipswich, was launched during that period.

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However it is not known how much, if any, of the money was paid to phone companies or internet providers during the investigation which began late in 2006.

The information is generally not accessible unless stringent criteria are met.

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In cases where officers can fulfil these criteria they are empowered to apply for the information they require under specific legislation.

The data is understood to have been sought for various types of investigations, including those which may have particular sensitivities.

Call logs, location data, and communication information through e-mail and instant messaging, are among the areas which are likely to have come under scrutiny.

The constabulary said any intrusion on private information relating to people or organisations that are not the focus of any inquiry is kept to a minimum.

During the last three full financial years Suffolk police paid out £106,968 in 2011/12, £94,851 in 2010/11, and £115,868 in 2009/10.

The full amount paid out since 2005/06 is £701,636.

Lucy Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Suffolk Constabulary, said: “Communications data can be essential in gaining evidence and intelligence in the investigation of crime.

“It is used by law enforcement agencies during these investigations and incidents of terrorism.

“Authority for the lawful acquisition of communications data is granted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act legislation where it must meet strict tests to ensure that the use of this data is necessary, proportionate and that its impact on third party private information (collateral intrusion) is kept to a minimum.

“All applications are subject to independent inspection and oversight by the Interception of Communications Commissioners Office to ensure that these powers are exercised strictly in accordance within the codes of practice .

“Service providers charge a ‘cost only’ fee for the provision of this data which they hold in accordance with the EU Data Retention Policy and this must be paid for from the constabulary’s annual budget.”

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