The covert eavesdropping of the MP Sadiq Khan is alleged to be just the first case in a far wider operation to bug terrorist suspects and other serious criminals introduced after the September 11 attacks.
Lawyers, including the human rights solicitors Gareth Peirce and Mudassar Arani, were allegedly “routinely bugged” by police during visits to see clients at Woodhill prison. Listening devices were said to have been concealed in tables at the jail.
Nationally it is thought that many more people may have been covertly recorded.
Serious criminals, including the Soham murderer Ian Huntley and the letter bomber Miles Cooper, are also thought to have been targeted by the alleged secret bugging.
It is feared that the eavesdropping of legally-privileged discussions could lead to calls from defence solicitors for major criminal cases to be retried.
This weekend, ministers are under intense pressure to reveal what they knew about the secret bugging practice. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said last night that he would be writing to Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, demanding an inquiry into the surveillance process.
“It is inconceivable that this action has taken place without ministerial approval,” he said.
“Whilst there can be reasons for eavesdropping on legal meetings, it is such a serious infringement of people’s rights that there has to be a very good reason if this has happened. It can put the trial at risk which means that serious crimes may go unpunished.”
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, said that he was “appalled” by the latest revelations.
“The confidentiality between a lawyer and client is a pillar of our legal system. I’m astonished that ministers have apparently given the go-ahead to this without any public discussion,” he said.
Police bugged Labour MP Sadiq Khan