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Criminal probe over Miranda data
Data seized from an investigative journalist's partner who was detained for nine hours under anti-terror laws has led the police to launch a criminal investigation, the High Court has been told.
Judges heard the Metropolitan Police had taken possession of "tens of thousands of pages of material" from David Miranda's electronic equipment after he was held without charge for the maximum time permitted at Heathrow Airport as he changed planes on a journey from Berlin to his home in Brazil on Sunday.
The Brazilian is the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has worked with US whistleblower Edward Snowden on a series of security services exposes. His lawyers said he had had nine items, including his laptop, mobile phone, memory cards and DVDs, seized during the detention
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, appearing for the Met Police, said a mass of material had been discovered by officers who are still examining the seized material. Mr Laidlaw said: "That which has been inspected contains in the view of the police highly sensitive material disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety. Thus the police have now initiated a criminal investigation. I am not proposing to say anything else which might alert potential defendants here or abroad to the nature and the ambit of the criminal investigation which has now been started."
Mr Laidlaw was fighting an application by Mr Miranda for an interim injunction to prevent the Government, its agencies and the police from further "inspecting, copying or sharing" the material until London's High Court can hear his challenge to the legality of the seizures in the near future. His lawyers are seeking judicial review, arguing that his detention was a misuse of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and breached his human rights.
Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Kenneth Parker adjourned Mr Miranda's injunction application for seven days - until Friday, August 30. In the meantime they made orders that the seized data could continue to be examined - but only for national security purposes and the protection of the public. The judges said this included whether Mr Miranda himself was involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
Matthew Ryder QC, for Mr Miranda, told the judges that he was questioned and property in his possession was seized "under threat of criminal prosecution in a coercive use of Schedule 7 which was unlawful".
Home Secretary Theresa May said before Thursday's hearing the police were right to act if they believed Mr Miranda was in possession of material that he was carrying for Mr Greenwald that could be useful to terrorists. In court, her QC Steven Kovats said: "Material taken from the claimant includes material the unauthorised disclosure of which would endanger national security of the UK and put lives at risk." Mr Kovats argued it was "necessary for the national security of the UK" for the Government and its agencies "to be free to have access to that data and examine it without delay".
Gwendolen Morgan, of law firm Bindmans, who was acting for Mr Miranda, argued in a witness statement that Schedule 7 was used "for an improper purpose and was therefore unlawful" - which has been denied by the Government. She said it "amounted to a grave and manifestly disproportionate interference" with Mr Miranda's human rights and was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Ms Morgan said: "The purpose of these proceedings is to protect the confidentiality of the sensitive journalistic material that was seized from the claimant (Mr Miranda). Confidentiality, once lost, can clearly never be restored." After the judges gave their ruling, she said outside court the Government now has seven days to "prove there is a genuine threat to national security". Asked what she knew about the news that there was now a criminal investigation, she said: "Very little. We don't know of any basis for that."
A Home Office spokesman said: "We are pleased the court has agreed that the police can examine the material as part of their criminal investigation insofar as it falls within the purposes of the original Schedule 7 examination and in order to protect national security. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on ongoing legal proceedings."