McArthur: Legality of police cyber kiosks remains unresolved

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today warned that “we still have no clarity around how people’s rights will be protected” as a series of letters between Police Scotland, the Crown Office and the Scottish Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Policing highlighted lingering concerns over the legality of Police Scotland’s cyber kiosks.

Senior officers indicated that the Crown Office would be providing advice on the legality of the kiosks. However on 30 January, COPFS wrote to Police Scotland to say that there has been a ‘misunderstanding’ by Police Scotland, who thought that the request for legal advice had been passed to Crown Counsel for consideration.

In the letter COPFS warned that it would be “inappropriate” for them to comment on a request for broad guidance on police powers as they only give advice on admissibility of evidence into court on a case by case basis.

Upon receiving this from COPFS, Police Scotland wrote to the Scottish Parliament’s Sub Committee on Policing, stating “we believe the [COPFS] position outlined within to be supportive of the Police Scotland position with regard the existence of a legal basis for the examination of digital device using Cyber Kiosks.”

The policing sub-committee has now written to Police Scotland demanding clarifications.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said:

"Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has said that public confidence and policing by consent is key for the use of cyber kiosks yet even basic information on the legality of this technology is proving difficult to pry out.

“Now we have a situation in which the police are offering assurances that their position is supported by the Crown Office. But COPFS themselves are saying that it would be “inappropriate” for them to comment on a request for broad guidance on police powers.

“It’s entirely reasonable for the police to look at ways of improving the way in which they work. It is equally reasonable for the public to demand answers on the legality of new and controversial technology in which the police have already invested hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“Police Scotland have accepted that these questions around the legal basis for using kiosks are legitimate.  The Chief Constable assured the Committee that no roll out would take place until they were resolved. Yet we still have no clarity around how people's rights will be safeguarded as these kiosks are deployed. That is not good enough.”

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