Last week’s high court ruling that Government legislation on data surveillance was unlawful made headlines not only in the UK, but also across Europe and in the United States.
And the legal team who first brought the action say the ramifications of the judgement will be of great constitutional importance.
On Friday, in a 45-page ruling, two high court judges found that a section of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Dripa) 2014 broke EU human rights rules.
The government now has until March next year to pass new legislation.
Ramby de Mello, a barrister with No5 Chambers, was instructed by Bhatia Best Solicitors on behalf of campaigning claimants Peter Brice and Geoffrey Lewis in July last year. They were joined by Labour backbencher Tom Watson and Conservative former shadow home secretary David Davis in bringing a legal challenge to the Act.
Stuart Luke of Bhatia Best said: “The very crux of this case was not the gathering and storing of people’s personal data per se, but that there were not sufficient safeguards in place to protect that information once it was gathered.
“Last year’s rushed legislation that handed government the power to insist on all communication companies retaining all data was, we argued, not compatible with European law. The judgement shows that we were right to bring this challenge.”
Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Collins declared that Section 1 of Dripa was flawed because it did not stipulate precise rules restricting data retention to the purpose of preventing and detecting defined serious offences, or ‘of conducting criminal prosecutions relating to such offences’.
The judges also warned that, if Parliament fails to act, they will disapply provisions contained in Section 1 which allow the retention of data without prior review, unless the data is held for ‘the prevention and detection of serious offences, or the conduct of criminal prosecutions’.
Home Secretary Theresa May was granted permission to appeal.
Stuart Luke is an Associate Partner and the founder and Head of Casework in Bhatia Best’s Community Care and Public Law department. He has been with the firm since 2002 and qualified as a solicitor in 2004.
Award winning No5 Chambers is the UK’s premier set of barristers’ chambers with offices in Birmingham, London, Bristol and East Midlands and boasts more than 240 barristers and 28 silks.