Guernsey Press

Tougher sentences ‘should encourage suspects to reveal mobile passcodes’

The introduction of more serious punishments should encourage suspected criminals to give police their mobile phone passcodes, Home Affairs president Rob Prow has said.

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Home Affairs president Rob Prow. (33141130)

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers law – known as Ripl – dates back to 2003 and covers interception of communications and disclosure of communications data, as well as covert operations and investigating encrypted data.

But it is most commonly used in the courts when suspects in drugs cases fail to unlock to their phones when required to do so by law enforcement.

Failure to comply is a criminal offence which used to attract a maximum prison sentences of two years for conviction on indictment, and six months for a summary conviction.

As these maximum prison terms were lower than those for the original criminal offences suspected, many suspects chose not to unlock their phones.

Deputy Prow said that recent changes, which increased maximum sentences for Ripl offences to five years, were designed to improve the effectiveness of the Bailiwick’s criminal justice system.

‘Not complying with this [Ripl] notice is an offence in itself, in order to act as a deterrent for people seeking to hide information critical to a criminal investigation on a mobile device,’ he said.

‘Experience before this amendment showed that, because the maximum sentence for failure to comply with the Ripl notice was lower than that of the suspected criminality, many suspects were choosing not to comply, rather than reveal information that could expose them to prosecution.

‘This was an increasingly common occurrence and was hampering efforts to tackle the proceeds of crime effectively, as well as the criminality itself.

‘This new level will and is working more effectively, and will ensure full and proper investigations can be carried out, and criminals brought to justice.’

A recent case in the courts saw a man sentenced to two years in prison for failing to disclose his pin code.

The judge said it was a ‘calculated risk’. Lt-Bailiff Russell Finch said the court was entitled in law to assume the worst and that the phone contained something which the defendant wanted to hide.