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With the recent High Court ruling that a key pillar of the government’s Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) – often referred to as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ – is unlawful and must be amended within six months, we ask what lies ahead now for this controversial piece of legislation?

The judgement says that Part 4 of the IPA, which outlines the need for ISPs to retain their customers communications data including email activity, phone use and Internet browsing history, was incompatible with EU law. This is something that regular readers of our blog will know we’ve been saying for some time!

Within the 40 page judgement Lord Justice Rabinder Singh also gave the Government until 1st November 2018 to amend the law, another blow for the UK government who had argued that they should have until April 2019 to make the changes required.

This is the latest twist in what has been an extremely rocky road for the IPA and we’ve been keeping a keen eye on legal developments since our most recent blog piece on the subject in March (‘Does the latest European court ruling expose the cracks in the IPA?’) highlighted some of the serious issues facing the future of the legislation following other rulings against it in the European Court and The Court of Appeal.

The Government must now amend the IPA to enable prior review by a court or independent administrative body and – in the context of crime-fighting – to only allow access to data for purposes of combating “serious crime.”

This ruling in itself is likely to raise further concerns. The bar for what constitutes a ‘serious crime’ currently appears to have been set by the Government at an extremely low six month jail sentence and has also been qualified with the stipulation that an adult should be “capable” of being imprisoned for this time, as opposed to that they should “reasonably expect” it – in other words painting with a very broad brush!

What is certain is the legal wrangling on the IPA seems unlikely to stop at this latest ruling as Liberty, the civil rights group which brought about this legal case, is already planning further challenges.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “Today’s ruling focuses on just one part of a law that is rotten to the core. It still lets the state hack our computers, tablets and phones, hoover up information about who we speak to, where we go, and what we look at online, and collect profiles of individual people even without any suspicion of criminality. Liberty’s challenge to these powers will continue.”

We will of course keep you informed of all further developments on the IPA in the coming months.

Have your say!

What are your thoughts on the IPA? Is it a necessary piece of legislation to ensure our country’s safety? Or an infringement of our human rights and an excessive logistical burden on ISPs? Let us know by leaving us a comment below.

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