Back to top
News In Focus

Appeal court upholds "snoopers' charter" ruling against Government

30 January 2018

Significant parts of the UK Government's "snoopers’ charter" are effectively unlawful, the campaign group Liberty clamed today, following a Court of Appeal ruling upholding a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA).

Judges upheld an earlier ruling on a case brought by MP Tom Watson, represented by Liberty, who claimed that the Government was breaking the law by collecting individuals' internet activity and phone records and letting public bodies grant themselves access to these personal details, where there was no suspicion of serious crime and no independent signoff.

Sir Geoffrey Vos (Chancellor of the High Court), Lord Justice Patten and Lord Lloyd Jones faulted the legislation as it did not restrict access to the data, in the context of the investigation and prosecution of crime, to the purpose of fighting serious crime, and it allowed police and public bodies authorise their own access, instead of subjecting access requests to prior authorisation by a court or independent body.

DRIPA expired at the end of 2016, but the same powers were extended and re-enacted in the Investigatory Powers Act, which started to come into force in 2017. Liberty is challenging this legislation in a separate case, to be heard in the High Court later this year.

The Government has already conceded that the Investigatory Powers Act will need to change, but Liberty maintains that its plans "do not even fully comply with past court rulings requiring mandatory safeguards – and they continue to allow public bodies to indiscriminately retain and access personal data, including records of internet use, location tracking using mobile phones and records of who we communicate with and when".

Martha Spurrier, Liberty’s director, said: "Yet again a UK court has ruled the Government’s extreme mass surveillance regime unlawful. This judgment tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public’s human rights. The latest incarnation of the snoopers’ charter, the Investigatory Powers Act, must be changed."

Mr Watson added: "This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through Parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

"The Government must now bring forward changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are innocent victims or witnesses to crime, are protected by a system of independent approval for access to communications data. I’m proud to have played my part in safeguarding citizen’s fundamental rights."

Click here to view the court's decision.

Have your say