UK MPs Consider Judicial Review of DRIP Internet Snooping Act

  • by

By Mark Jackson, ISPreview UK | July 23rd, 2014

The UK’s semi-recycled Data Retention and Investigation Powers Act (DRIP), which extends the range of Internet snooping that the Government can perform on its citizens and was controversially rushed into law last week under emergency powers (here), will become the subject of a Judicial Review process if some MPs get their way.

A Judicial Review is a special type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body, such as the Government. Such reviews are designed more to investigate how a decision has been made rather than whether or not the outcome of that decision was the right one (i.e. if successful the Government would be forced into making amendments).

In this instance many have questioned the way in which the Government’s DRIP Act was rushed through, especially considering that no attempt was made to placate an earlier ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJs parent Data Retention Directive, which requires member states and their phone / Internet providers to keep a basic access log of all website, email and phone call activity for up to 2 years, was “invalid” (here and here) because it breached the “fundamental right to respect for private life and the fundamental right to the protection of personal data” (i.e. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU).

However, instead of adjusting the UK’s equivalent Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), the Government decided to hold on to their snooping powers and rush through an amended version in order to keep it alive, which in the process craftily managed to extend the laws remit.

As a result David Davis, an often outspoken Conservative MP on matters of state surveillance, and Labour’s equally familiar MP Tom Watson, have teamed up with civil rights group Liberty to seek a Judicial Review of the Government’s “emergency” surveillance law.

David Davis, Conservative MP for Haltemprice & Howden, said:

This Act of Parliament was driven through the House of Commons with ridiculous and unnecessary haste to meet a completely artificial emergency. As a result Members of Parliament had no opportunity to either research it, consider it or debate it properly and the aim of this legal action is to make the Government give the House the opportunity to do what it should have been allowed in the first place. Proper, considered and effective law making. The overall aim is to create law which both protects the security of our citizens without unnecessarily invading their privacy.”

Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, said:

The three party leaders struck a private deal to railroad through a controversial Bill in a week. You cannot make good laws behind closed doors. The new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act does not answer the concerns of many that the blanket retention of personal data is a breach of fundamental rights to privacy.”

Liberty has already issued a “letter before claim” that invites the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to either “concede that the Act is indeed incompatible and to publish and present a replacement Bill” or to agree that the claims are arguable and that a substantive hearing ought to follow.

The usual procedures mean that any case wouldn’t be heard until later this year or early next year.