Undercover policing operations should be authorised in advance by a judge, the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers has said.
Sir Hugh Orde said the change was needed to restore public confidence after concerns about the role played by the former Metropolitan Police constable Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years posing as an environmental activist.
Sir Hugh said the benefits of judicial oversight of future operations would "far outweigh the additional administrative burden". At a policing seminar held by the human rights group Liberty in London, he added: "The current system of retrospective inspection is, in my judgement, no longer sufficient to secure the confidence of right-thinking people that such interference with citizens' rights... is appropriate.
"The solution must take the form of some independent pre-authority that is already a common feature in other areas of policing in this country."