Liberty represents MPs in legal challenge to government surveillance law

By agency reporter
23 Jul 2014

Liberty, the cross-party organisation for fundamental tights and freedoms in the UK, has announced it will seek a Judicial Review of the Government’s “emergency” surveillance law on behalf of MPs David Davis and Tom Watson. The announcement comes days after the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIP) was rushed through Parliament onto the statute book.

Liberty is arguing on behalf of Mr Davis and Mr Watson that the new legislation is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the right to respect for private and family life, and Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, respect for private and family life and protection of personal data.

Since 2009, communications data has been retained by public communications services and network providers under a 2009 EU Data Retention Directive. But in April the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the Directive was invalid because it was so sweeping in its interference with individual privacy rights. The judgment made clear that existing UK legislation, including the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), required urgent review.

However, on 10 July 2014, DRIP was introduced by Ministers claiming that “emergency” legislation was necessary. The Bill was privately agreed following discussions between the three main party leaders. It became law within just three days – rendering proper parliamentary scrutiny, amendment and even debate impossible.

James Welch, Legal Director for Liberty, said: “It’s as ridiculous as it is offensive to introduce an “emergency” law in response to an essay crisis. The court ruling that blanket data retention breached the privacy of every man, woman and child in the UK was more than three months ago. The Government has shown contempt for both the rule of law and Parliamentary Sovereignty, and this private cross party stitch-up, railroaded onto the statute book inside three days, is ripe for challenge in the Courts.”

David Davis, Conservative MP for Haltemprice and 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.”

[Ekk/4]

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