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UK.gov will appeal against DRIPA-busting verdict, says minister

Meanwhile 'unlawful' law stays in force until March next year. Trebles all round!

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Home Secretary Theresa May: Every free citizen's nightmare

The government has announced it will appeal a High Court judgment which has ruled its DRIPA surveillance legislation unlawful.

The High Court judgment, which was delivered this morning, ruled that the "emergency" DRIPA surveillance legislation rushed through Parliament last year is unlawful.

Responding to the High Court verdict, security minister John Hayes declared: "We disagree absolutely with this judgment and will seek an appeal."

This may be only the second time in history that the High Court has disapplied primary legislation, a fact which Financial Times legal blogger David Allen Green considers of "huge historical significance."

Hayes stated that metadata, also known as communications data, "is not just crucial in the investigation of serious crime. It is also a fundamental part of investigating other crimes which still have a severe impact, such as stalking and harassment, as well as locating missing people."

Released yesterday, the Interception of Communication Commissioner's half-yearly report revealed several errors in the use of metadata, including its possible use for whistleblower witchhunting and a confirmed instance of an innocent person's home being raided because of a typo.

"The effect of this judgment would be that in certain cases, communications data that could potentially save lives would only be available to the police and other law enforcement if a communications company had decided to retain it for commercial reasons. We believe that is wrong," claimed Hayes.

Conservative MP David Davis, one of the parliamentarian claimants alongside Labour's Tom Watson MP, signed up to microblabber site Twitter to celebrate the ruling.

Addressing Parliament when DRIPA underwent its hasty debate, David Davis concured with the Government's declaration of an emergency, saying "There is an emergency—a legal emergency—but it started on 8 April."

Davis questioned the need to rush the bill through Parliament, suggesting the emergency "was eminently predictable because, as far back as 2010, the European data protection supervisor said that the data retention directive was 'without doubt the most privacy invasive instrument ever adopted by the EU'."

Why has it taken three months? Why was the legislation not pre-prepared? Why was the deal with the Labour party not struck in advance?

My understanding is that there was an argument inside the Government between the two halves of the coalition. That argument has gone on for three months. What the coalition could not decide in three months, this House has to decide in one day. That seems to me entirely improper.

The 44-page judgment (PDF) has ruled that the unlawful sections of DRIPA will stay in force until the end of March 2016, to allow time for the government to compose new legislation.

The government, however, has stated it will take "whatever steps are necessary to ensure communications data continues to be available when it is needed."

Spook-watchers may wonder if such steps could be achieved through Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984. ®

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