ECJ Challenges Legality of UK's IP Act

ECJ Challenges Legality of UK's IP Act

The European Court of Justice has this morning delivered its judgement in the legal challenge brought against DRIPA by MPs David Davis and Tom Watson (Davis withdrew from the case upon becoming appointed a minister in Theresa May's cabinet). The judgement sets a new precedent for governing the data retention regimes of EU member states, and demands that access to retained data must be restricted to the purpose of preventing and detecting serious crime.

The judgement also states that police and public bodies should not be allowed to authorise their own access to retained data, and that such authorisation must be given by an independent court prior to retained data being accessed.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

We are disappointed with the judgment from the European Court of Justice and will be considering its potential implications. It will now be for the Court of Appeal to determine the case. The Government will be putting forward robust arguments to the Court of Appeal about the strength of our existing regime for communications data retention and access.

Tom Watson MP said:

This ruling shows it's counter-productive to rush new laws through Parliament without a proper scrutiny. At a time when we face a real and ever-present terrorist threat, the security forces may require access to personal information none of us would normally hand over. That's why it's absolutely vital that proper safeguards are put in place to ensure this power is not abused, as it has been in the recent past. Most of us can accept that our privacy may occasionally be compromised in the interests of keeping us safe, but no one would consent to giving the police or the government the power to arbitrarily seize our phone records or emails to use as they see fit. It's for judges, not Ministers, to oversee these powers. I'm pleased the court has upheld the earlier decision of the UK courts.

Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, said:

This ruling proves that this Conservative Government has overstepped the mark. The legality of the Investigatory Powers Act - passed into law with Labour's full support - has now been called into question. Collecting and storing everyone's internet web browsing histories and phone records so government agencies can look at them is an Orwellian nightmare that intrudes into our privacy and erodes our civil liberties. Liberal Democrats tried to stop the worst excesses and now the courts agree. We need to keep people safe but mass surveillance as sanctioned by the Investigatory Powers Act is unacceptable in a democratic society, would be unconstitutional in many countries, and is likely to be ineffective and counter-productive.[...] This dreadful piece of legislation will cost millions to implement and unless the Government reconsider, they will inevitably face further embarrassment in the courts.

Liberty director Martha Spurrier stated:

Today’s judgment upholds the rights of ordinary British people not to have their personal lives spied on without good reason or an independent warrant. The Government must now make urgent changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to comply with this.[…] This is the first serious post-referendum test for our Government’s commitment to protecting human rights and the rule of law. The UK may have voted to leave the EU – but we didn't vote to abandon our rights and freedoms