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Cross-party MPs plan demise of second Snoopers’ Charter

The UK Government’s latest attempt to introduce wide-ranging surveillance powers will come under attack in the High Court this week.

A judicial challenge to the government’s DRIPA (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act)  2014, brought about by Conservative MP David Davis, Labour MP Tom Watson and the privacy campaign group Liberty, will be heard by the Court. 

They will argue that the DRIPA is incompatible with sections of the Human Rights Act – most notably Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which affords citizens the right to respect for private and family life, and Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which pertains to the respect for private and family life and protection of personal data. 

Investigatory Powers Bill: What we know so farDavis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden, said: “While it is disappointing that the courts, rather than Parliament, are in this case acting as the defender of our civil liberties, it is nonetheless a vindication of our constitutional checks and balances that the courts have seen fit to review the flawed decision by the Government to force emergency legislation through Parliament with serious consequences for everyone’s privacy in response to a manufactured emergency.”

DRIPA currently requires ISPs and telecoms companies to collect IP data on customers for 12 months and make this available to security services. It was introduced after the European Court of Justice threw out RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) on the ground that it violated the human rights of British citizens. 

The legal challenge arrives as the government prepares to publish its Investigatory Powers Bill, widely thought to be a re-run of the Communications Data Bill, aka the Snoopers’ Charter, launched (and defeated) in 2013. 

The High Court hearing, which is being heard by Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Collins, is expected to last two days and. If successful, the challenge could halt the Investigatory Powers Bill in its tracks. 

Government’s new legislation, which will greatly expand data-access and retention for intelligence services, despite attempts to expedite its introduction. One of the main facets of the challenge hinges on the Human Rights Act, which as it happens, the government is attempting to replace with a British Bill of Rights. 

Liberty’s legal officer, Emma Norton said: “The executive dominance of parliament in rushing through this legislation – using a wholly fabricated ‘emergency’ – made a mockery of parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law, and showed a staggering disregard for the entire population’s right to privacy.”

Watson, MP for West Bromwich East and vocal critic of the temporary RIPA measures added: “Even MPs are powerless to prevent such powers being enacted. The Human Rights Act allows us to challenge those powers in the courts but the Tory government is intent on tearing up the act and doing away with the limited legal protection it affords. It is vital that we fight for it to be retained.” 

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