David Miranda: Police inquiry over 'sensitive' material

David Miranda Image copyright Reuters
Image caption David Miranda was in transit when he was detained at Heathrow Airport

Police have launched a criminal inquiry after seizing thousands of classified intelligence documents from the partner of a Guardian journalist.

Scotland Yard says it is examining the "highly sensitive material" after detaining David Miranda at Heathrow airport on Sunday.

An injunction limits them from looking at, copying or sharing any information except to protect national security.

The government's independent reviewer of terrorism laws is to probe the case.

Mr Miranda, 28, who was travelling from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro where he lives with journalist Glenn Greenwald, was stopped in connection with the classified data on American and British surveillance programmes leaked to the Guardian from whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

He was detained for nine hours at Heathrow on Sunday under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

The law allows police to hold someone for up to nine hours for questioning about whether they have been involved with acts of terrorism.

The Met Police issued a statement after Mr Miranda sought a High Court injunction to stop examination of the material "until the legality of that seizure has been determined".

It said: "We welcome the decision of the court which allows our examination of the material - containing thousands of classified intelligence documents - to continue in order to protect life and national security...

"Initial examination of material seized has identified highly sensitive material, the disclosure of which could put lives at risk. As a result the Counter Terrorism Command has today begun a criminal investigation."

Judges at the High Court ruled the authorities could examine the seized material for the defence of national security and also to investigate whether Mr Miranda is a person who is or has been concerned with the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

Later, the government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, announced he was carrying out an investigation into the detention of Mr Miranda.

He said his inquiry would "concentrate on the use made by police of the schedule 7 powers in this case, from the moment when their use was first considered until the release of Mr Miranda".

He said: "This will inevitably involve consideration of whether the powers were lawfully, appropriately and humanely used, of the processes that were applied in order to ensure that this was the case and of any alternatives that were or might have been considered."

The independent reviewer of terror legislation reports annually on the operation of the terrorism acts.

Initial meetings have already been held with the police and Mr Anderson said he has requested full access to personnel and relevant classified material held by Home Secretary Theresa May.

A Home Office spokesman said: "It is right that the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation examines cases like this to ensure that the law has been applied properly."

The judicial review proceedings at the High Court involved the Home Office and the police.

A lawyer for the police revealed during the court hearing that they were launching a criminal investigation after examining some of the material.

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Media captionDavid Miranda's lawyer: "We consider this to be a partial victory"

But Jonathan Laidlaw QC did not give any details about the inquiry, adding: "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."

Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Kenneth Parker were told Home Secretary Theresa May believed it was necessary to examine the documents "without delay in the interests of national security".

Steven Kovats QC said Mrs May had given "careful consideration" to Mr Miranda's requests and had offered "more narrowly defined" undertakings which the court should accept.

But he 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."

There will be a full hearing on the question of continuing police inspections on 30 August.

A spokesman for the publisher of the Guardian newspaper said: "We welcome this partial victory but have grave concerns that today's judgment allows police to examine without any legal oversight journalistic material seized from David Miranda. It remains our position that David Miranda was involved in legitimate journalistic activity."

Speaking outside the High Court, Mr Miranda's lawyer, Gwendolen Morgan, said: "The Home Office and police now have seven days to prove that there is a genuine threat to national security, rather than make mere assertions as they have done today."

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