Reid wary of phone tap data as evidence

Click to follow

A rift has opened between senior ministers over the use of phone-tap evidence in terrorist prosecutions.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, is at odds with Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, who wants to lift the ban on allowing such evidence. Lord Goldsmith has said it could be a "key tool" in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. He was won over after seeing how phone-tap material had helped secure the conviction of five senior Mafia figures in America.

But Mr Reid said allowing intercept evidence could have "great long-term disadvantages", such as diverting MI5 resources into typing out long transcripts of bugged conversations.

Mr Reid said: "No doubt his [Lord Goldsmith's] evidence will be put to me, but I'm responsible for the security service and the fight against terrorism."

Civil liberties groups, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have argued that phone-tap material should be allowed in British courts.The police and security services have expressed fears that allowing such material could compromise their agents' surveillance techniques.

The issue is being examined by a Home Office review team, with a decision not expected until spring.