Constitutional Law

U.K. Bugged Inmate's Calls to Lawyer; Is This a Common Practice?

  • Print

In a discovery that has fanned fears that British inmates’ phone calls to their attorneys are routinely bugged, a lawyer in the U.K. reportedly has received transcripts of secretly recorded phone conversations between himself and an imprisoned client.

Simon Creighton, of Bhatt Murphy solicitors in London, says the transcripts show the government secretly—and illegally—listened to privileged prison phone conversations with his client, in violation of British common law and the European Convention of Human Rights, reports the London Times. The conversations included, Creighton says, discussions of legal tactics and problems that the client, Harry Roberts, was having in prison. Now 71, Roberts is seeking parole for the 1966 murder of three police officers, for which he was sentenced to life in prison.

Creighton found out about the secret surveillance when he received transcripts of 2005 and 2006 phone calls from a government-appointed lawyer working on the case.

“I am deeply shocked by this breach of such an important and fundamental right,” Creighton tells the newspaper. “It is especially worrying that it occurred in this case where there were already heightened sensitivities because of the decision made by the parole board to receive secret evidence. Had the secrecy order not been lifted, it would never have come to light, and it makes me wonder whether this is a more common practice than anyone has previously dared to imagine.”

The news of the bugged phone calls follows a recent discovery that a meeting of a member of parliament with an imprisoned constituent also was secretly recorded, the Times notes. Now there is a call to expand the ongoing government inquiry into the earlier incident. Details of the investigation are provided in an earlier London Times article.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.