10:56, April 27 268 0 theguardian.com

2018-04-27 10:56:28
UK has six months to rewrite snooper's charter, high court rules

The UK government must rewrite its mass data surveillance legislation because it is incompatible with European law, the high court has ruled.

Judges have given ministers and officials six months to redraft the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act, labelled the snooper’s charter by critics, following a crowdfunded challenge by the human rights group Liberty.

Ministers had already accepted that some aspects of the act do not comply with EU law and need to be revised. They wanted until April next year to introduce new rules.

On Friday, however, Lord Justice Singh and Lord Justice Holgate said legislation must be drawn up by the start of November.

Lawyers for Liberty argued in February that the act violates the public’s right to privacy by allowing the storage of and access to internet data.

The government accepted the act was inconsistent with EU law because access to retained data was not limited to the purpose of combating “serious crime” and was not subject to prior review by a court or other independent body.

The case was the first stage of Liberty’s legal challenge against the act and was crowdfunded by supporters who raised more than £50,000.

The Home Office announced a series of new safeguards last year in anticipation of the ruling. They include removing the power of self-authorisation for senior police officers and requiring approval for requests for confidential communications data to be granted by the investigatory powers commissioner.

Liberty said the safeguards did not go far enough. The campaign group launched another fundraising effort for the next stage of its case, which included challenging rules on bulk interception of digital communications.

It aimed to challenge powers to intercept communications in bulk and create files known as personal datasets, arguing that they undermine free speech, privacy and patient confidentiality, legal privilege and journalists’ sources.

Speaking after the ruling, Liberty’s director, Martha Spurrier, said: “Police and security agencies need tools to tackle serious crime in the digital age, but creating the most intrusive surveillance regime of any democracy in the world is unlawful, unnecessary and ineffective.”

The latest ruling follows an appeal court decision in January against previous surveillance rules in the 2014 Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which expired at the end of 2016.

Three senior judges concluded that Dripa was inconsistent with EU law following a challenge by the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, and campaigners, which was supported by Liberty.