The Home Office has welcomed a High Court judgement upholding the lawfulness of the data retention regime outlined in the Investigatory Powers Act. The High Court handed down its judgement in favour of the Conservative Government following a legal challenge delivered by civil liberties and Human Rights campaign group Liberty.
While the Government had already conceded that aspects of Part 4 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 which concerns communications data retention were inconsistent with EU law, and has committed to bring forward amendments to remedy these inconsistencies, Liberty claimed that the communications data regime as a whole should be abolished.
Communications data is an essential tool for law enforcement and national security investigations. Among many other purposes, it’s used to investigate crime, support or disprove alibis and link a suspect to a particular crime scene. The High Court ruling means that crucial powers which are used by law enforcement every day to prevent and detect crime and to keep people safe will be maintained.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “We are delighted that the High Court has agreed with the Government on all counts in this judgement. For years, Liberty has created misplaced fear about this legislation, and we’re pleased that the Court recognises the importance of communications data in fighting crime and keeping families and communities safe. This sensible and pragmatic judgement correctly balances all the rights of individuals with protecting people’s security. In the 21st Century, if we are to safeguard our citizens from threats posed by terrorists we simply must have these capabilities.”
In a detailed analysis, the High Court found that the Government’s current data retention regime is neither general nor indiscriminate, stating: “We do not think it could possibly be said that the legislation requires, or even permits, a general and indiscriminate retention of communications data.”
The Government has already committed to bring forward amendments to its regime for Parliament to debate and vote on, along with the Communications Data Code of Practice, and will do so in line with the High Court’s timetable.
Communications data is used in 95% of serious and organised crime prosecutions handled by the Crown Prosecution Service and has played a significant role in every Security Service counter-terrorism operation over the last decade.