`Keep bugs out of the confessional'

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The Roman Catholic leader of England and Wales yesterday asked the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, to guarantee that police would not be allowed to bug the confessional box.

Cardinal Basil Hume wrote to Mr Howard to voice concerns about the bugging provisions in the Police Bill currently going through Parliament. In his letter, he sought an amendment to the Bill to safeguard the confidentiality of confession. Cardinal Hume wrote: "As presently drafted, the Bill provides wide powers for the police to conduct intrusive surveillance on any property. As no exemptions are made, the absolute confidentiality of the sacrament of confession could be violated if the police were to be authorised to conduct surveillance of a sacramental confession."