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The Ministry of Defence has opened an internal inquiry into the extraction of mobile phone information from a nuclear protestor.

The phone's owner, Juliet McBride, dropped her mobile while being escorted off an atomic weapons plant in Aldermaston, Berkshire. It was returned 24 hours later, but allegations that police noted down all the information on her SIM card has sparked the MoD to launch an inquiry, the Guardian reports.

Among the information was 80 personal telephone numbers and a variety of messages, including some from a senior MoD police officer. The Guardian also reports that one senior MoD bod ordered the information to be destroyed but was ignored.

The Men from the Ministry

The MoD inquiry's aim, incredibly, is not to find out if the information was taken but rather if the police broke the law by taking it. With the wide-ranging RIP Act now in force, police have the right to monitor virtually all communication stored or sent electronically.

However, the Act says that the information cannot be taken unless a cabinet minister signs something to this effect (a concession hard fought over in Parliament when the Bill passed through). If no such permission was given, then the extraction of her personal information is illegal.

With the Code of Practice for the RIP Act still in the wings, this case is one of the first to test how far police can push their new powers. ®

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