Reposted from Guardian on line
High court rules data retention and surveillance legislation unlawful
The high court has found that emergency surveillance legislation introduced by the coalition government last year is unlawful.
A judicial challenge by the Labour MP Tom Watson and the Conservative MPDavid Davis has overturned the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Dripa) 2014. The judges ruled that data retention powers in the legislation were inconsistent with EU laws.
The government has been ordered to pass new legislation that must come into effect by the end of next March.
In their challenge, supported by the human rights organisation Liberty, Davis and Watson argued that the law allowed the police and security services to spy on citizens without proper safeguards.
They argued that the legislation was incompatible with article eight of the European convention on human rights, the right to respect for private and family life, and articles seven and eight of the EU charter of fundamental rights, respect for private and family life and protection of personal data.
The MPs complained that use of communications data was not limited to cases involving serious crime, that individual notices of data retention were kept secret and that no provision was made for those under obligation of professional confidentiality, in particular lawyers and journalists. Nor, they argued, were there adequate safeguards against communications data leaving the European Union.
Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Collins declared that section one of Dripa “does not lay down clear and precise rules providing for access to and use of communications data” and should be “disapplied”.
But the judges said their order should be suspended until after 31 March 2016 “to give parliament the opportunity to put matters right”.
Watson, a former defence minister, said after the ruling: “It’s a year to the day since Dripa received royal assent. Good governance is about allowing the legislature the room to make law. In this case it didn’t happen. Good opposition is about holding governments to account and that didn’t happen either.
“So we find ourselves in a position where the courts have had to say to parliament go back and start again. In his final speech in parliament on this bill last year, David Davis warned that this legislation would be junk in a year and it is.”
Davis, a former Foreign Office security minister, said: “What this means is that access by the police and other agencies to everyone’s data is too easy. It can can range from a politician giving permission [to intercept communications] to anyone in the next office. That’s against the law and it’s not either in the interests of privacy or security.
“The government gave parliament one day to pass this legislation. This court has given the government nine months to sort it out.
“It’s the right judgment. It’s a measured judgment. It gives no risk to security because the government has plenty of time to sort it out.
“What this reflects is the emerging consensus in the last few weeks that proper judicial approval [of intercepting communications] is needed.”