The UK government’s law on data retention has been declared illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights. It follows a court battle by campaigners including the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Two High Court judges have ordered that the Data Retention Investigatory Powers Act (known as DRIPA) must cease on March 31st 2016.
DRIPA was rushed through the Parliament in July 2014. It was a response to the EU directive that made it illegal for the authorities such as the police and intelligence agencies to keep personal information for longer than one year.
The new law’s supporters argued that it was necessary for anti-terrorism investigations. But two of the 42 rebel MPs who voted against the DRIPA, Labour’s Tom Watson and Conservative David Davis, brought the High Court action. They won backing from campaign groups Liberty, Privacy International and the Open Rights Group.
NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet welcomed the ruling and called on the Prime Minister David Cameron to respect the rights of journalists to protect their confidential contacts and sources:
"Snooping on journalists and shopping their sources has made a terrible impact on the confidence potential whistleblowers have in putting vital information into the public domain. Criminalising sources and reporting has to stop.
"Our demands are straightforward. Legislative changes on surveillance must include an independent and judicial process; journalists must receive an automatic and mandatory prior notification of requests to access their sources, materials and communications; and mechanisms need to be put in place so journalists and media organisations can challenge an application to access their sources with a robust right of appeal.
"There is no difference between the authorities asking for a journalists’ physical contacts book or footage and their telephone and communications records. The effect is exactly the same and the same legal safeguards must cover both."
Conservative MP and digital rights campaigner David Davis, a former Shadow Home Secretary, commented on the success of his legal action: ‘The court has recognised what was clear to many last year, that the government’s hasty and ill-thought-through legislation is fatally flawed. They will now have to rewrite the law to require judicial or independent approval before accessing innocent people’s data.”
You can read the full judgement here http://bit.ly/1HyyS0t