UK mass surveillance laws are unlawful, it’s official
Emergency mass surveillance laws rushed through Parliament last year have been ruled unlawful by the High Court.
The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (Dripa), which was pushed through in three days in July 2014, was designed to give GCHQ and other public intelligence authorities the power to gather and retain information on phones calls, text messages and online communications, and force telecommunications companies to retain data for 12 months.
It was deemed necessary by the then-coalition government due to existing powers being invalidated by a ruling from the European Union’s Court of Justice. In order to maintain effective guards against serious crime and terrorism, the Home Office argued at the time, new emergency powers were required. A group of British legal experts published an open letter protesting the emergency bill, which gave MPs no time to deliberate the complex legislation. But with little time to raise a strong opposition, the bill was passed and later cemented in law.
In what will be seen as a big win for privacy activists everywhere, a challenge brought by MPs David Davis and Tom Watson has now been proven legitimate. The High Court ruled today that sections 1 and 2 of Dripa are unlawful because they breach Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The High Court ruled that the law fails to provide the “clear and precise rules” necessary to ensure data is only accessed in the most serious cases to prevent crime, or accessed when conducting criminal prosecutions relating to those serious offences. Dripa also fails to demand a warrant from a court or independent body. In the ruling the High Court concluded: “The need for that approval to be by a judge or official wholly independent of the force or body making the application should not, provided the person responsible is properly trained or experienced, be particularly cumbersome.”
Yay! for David Davis and Tom Watson.
The police raided David Davis’ office late in the evening, under terrorism laws to take documents used by Parliament. The Doctrine of the Separation of Powers (Legislative, Judiciary and Executive) were breached that night. Tom Watson stood against Murdoch and the hacking scandal. Two good men – whose value to society is legendary.