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back to article Court rules 90s UK.gov wiretaps violated human rights

Liberty called for an overhaul of RIPA yesterday after the European Court of Human Rights slapped the UK government over the way it applied the UK's previous interception legislation. But the Home Office today said it did not see that the judgement had any implications for the UK's current suite of laws covering covert …

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'Human rights' you say?

I'm not sure we're familiar with that concept in the UK, could someone please explain?

Traditionally, laws like RIPA exist in state of legal uncertainty when they are created and first implemented. Only when RIPA is tested in the courts will its compatability with human rights legislation be determined.

What Liberty is saying is that if the spooks and the cops were allowed to snoop on British citizens illegally for so long, why should we think anything has changed now?

The EU needs to take a pro-active attitude with the laws of member states and test them in simulated law courts before they are allowed to come to the statute books. It may not be pretty, and it would be slow... but until we have a proper written constitution or a proper set of checks and balances, its better than nothing.

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Sweden

20 years later and Sweden (wasn't it?) passes the same eavesdropping Bill and everyone complains. Pot,kettle,black ?

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Stop

The solution comes in the form...

...of two easy steps.

Get rid (or whatever the legal term is) of the Human Rights Act - The High Court / Appeals Court should be the highest court you can go to - end of.

Second, make it so that the Police, Customs & Security Service are the only ones who can intercept your communications. Councils obviously can't be trusted, so it's time to take the toys away.

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Re: The solution comes in the form...

No. What's to stop the Police Officer father of your girlfriend digging into your private life to get you away from "his girl"?

What's to stop the security services being asked, off the record if need be, by councillor to look?

The only way to stop that is to open up to EVERYONE what precisely the police and security services are doing.

Which isn't going to happen, and most of the reasons are actually good ones.

So the only way apart from that is to ensure we have rights that NOBODY can infringe for any reason and other rights that can only be taken away after due process and full parity of defense.

Which could be called "the Human Rights Act" because officers and secret service employees are not humans, they are the instantiation of a non-human organisation.

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Go

Can't ditch human rights act

The suggestion that the human rights act should be ditched is untterly pointless. The only real effect of this act is to embody the European Treaty on Human Rights into UK law so that it can be applied by a British court rather than the European court. This makes it all a bit less embarassing but doesn't really change applicable law.

As an employer I am conscious that current government advice on what an employer can intercept contradicts the human rights act. This government and its predecessors don't seem to be able work out the balance between human rights and monitoring legislation. They all operate a mish mash of contradictory advice and legislation.

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@Watashi

> The EU needs to take a pro-active attitude with the laws of member states and test them in simulated law courts before ...

I was going to ask what on Earth s/he meant by "simulated law courts", until it hit me that our criminal courts have been successfully demonstrating "simulated law" for some years... it's almost as good as the real thing...

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Anonymous Coward

"...respect for private and family life and correspondence..."

What has that to do with the communications of an organisation that is neither private nor familial?

Not that I agree necessarily with the actions of the Security forces, but it's quite possible their snooping didn't contravene the provisions of the HRA as written.

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Flame

The real travesty is...

... it took 9 years for the EU courts to reach a decision. That's nearly as shameful as the criminals and society's undesirables who take advantage of the Human Rights Act in applying for compensation and the right to have porn in jail, etc, not to mention how highly paid lawyers (often paid for by us through legal aid) abuse the underlying honest intentions of the Act... which should really be scrapped now. We did okay before the Act and used something old fashioned call common sense, but it actually worked. Does anyone remember that?

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@ Mark

Ummmm what would ditching HRA do in this case?

The UK is a founding member of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights is the ultimate arbiter of that convention. All HRA did was incorporate the majority of the Convention into UK Law meaning that citizens had redress for breaches of their rights in the UK courts rather than having to appeal their case all the way to the court in Strasbourg, a process that cost tens of thousands of Pounds and many years.

Dumping HRA would just make things worse for people whose rights have been infringed, delay justice and allow governments to get away with greater abuses.

If anything HRA needs to be strengthened. It's not possible for a judge to strike down a law that conflicts with the Convention, nor can they refuse to sentence someone who broke such a law. to remain on the statute book, whereas they should be repealed. The strongest action a court can take is to issue a declaration of incompatibility with the Convention, but they cannot fine the government for breaching the Convention. The reason is down to the self-importance of Parliament which considers itself the sole arbiter of UK law. So anyone hoping that ID Cards could be declared illegal under HRA are in for a nasty surprise.

The sooner we have a modern constitution (we could do a whole lot worse than to plagiarise the one written by a bunch of traitors in 1787) the better.

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@Mark

1. The word you're looking for is repeal and we can't do it because HRA is there because of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) so don't bother with that idea.

2. Why don't you change the record about local councils abusing the system. They're not - Councils can't intercept comms because they don't have the powers. They do have the powers though in terms of preventing fraud, flytipping, abuse of systems and other areas. It's all very well politicos saying that more care is taken but they don't have to justify the actions against the public purse.

3. How do you define petty issues. What if a family was pretending to live in one area to get a school place only to "move" the day after their child gets the place? Should a less well off family suffer because of that? If fishermen were destroying fragile shellfish beds because of their greed, why shouldn't the Council act? You're not going to get people to fess up, so other methods need to be used to obtain the evidence.

4. I'd bet if someone dumped the contents of a house in your garden or land, you'd want them stopped or arrested. You'd still have to get rid of the stuff yourself though. The local authority will probably move it at a cost if you ask nicely.

AC for good reason but, yes, I do work in the public sector.

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And the amusing thing about the ECHR

Is that it was largely written by British lawyers immediately after WWII to show Johnny Continental how to avoid repeating the recent unpleasantnesses perpetrated by the likes of Messers Hitler and Mussolini.

Of course it was assumed that we Brits knew how to play by the rules, and so we didn't bother to enact the ECHR into law for decades until the HRA which led to us being hauled in front of the European Court more than any other signatory state.

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Anonymous Coward

@Defining petty issues

"3. How do you define petty issues."

You don't, the court does that. The real horror that is RIPA is that before the council had suspicion and that suspicion was independantly judged by someone impartial and skilled in the law. RIPA did away with that and now Councils make their own choices. They are not impartial or skilled in the law.

"What if a family was pretending to live in one area to get a school place only to "move" the day after their child gets the place?"

What if the Council officer is being an ass making false accusations without even a shred of evidence or blanket spying on people because he's a power crazed dick? What if when he gets caught he starts spouting tosh about 'fraud'?

"I'd bet if someone dumped the contents of a house in your garden or land, you'd want them stopped or arrested."

I'd also want someone spying on me, following me around, and getting access to records without cause arrested. Even if they were from the council. Due process vs Blair's ad hock ideas.

Privacy didn't arrive with HMCR, and ECHR. Who protects the people from the out of control council employees, or the plastic police? Or the ACPO chief constable that thinks he's right even when he's wrong?

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Re: a modern constitution.

"The sooner we have a modern constitution (we could do a whole lot worse than to plagiarise the one written by a bunch of traitors in 1787) the better."

It's not really plagiarism as they just cherry-picked a lot of what they wrote from English common law. The only problem with a written constitution is that we all know who will be writing it.

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Pirate

What do El Regers think?

Dirty Tricks Incorporated? ...... Just whenever you think it couldn't get any worse .... http://tinyurl.com/428u2k

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Joke

amanfrommars- on another site!

follow his link- he's clearly being unfaithful to El Reg and messing about on another site!

digital hussy...

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Silver badge

Re: Re: a modern constitution.

"The only problem with a written constitution is that we all know who will be writing it."

Which was exactly why the Australian public voted overwhelmingly against becoming a republic in the 2001 referendum. The official sources put it down to popular devotion to the Queen, but to be honest most Australians couldn't give a toss who runs the country as long as we can have our barbecues, footy, and drinks with our mates. The real reason was that nobody trusted the current crop of despots (John Howard was in power at the time) to write a genuine constitution that didn't have America's corporate agenda stuck all over it.

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@AC

"We did okay before the Act and used something old fashioned call common sense, but it actually worked. Does anyone remember that?"

I'll remember that if you remember to remove your rose-tinted spectacles. In years past, those shuffling around the UK in possession, for example, of a heavy Ulster accent or a job in a coal mine might have viewed things differently.

That said, the HRA hasn't made one iota of difference with regard to off-white electricians or brown families in Forest Gate - and how long before your local council turns into a paramilitary militia just like the rozzers?

I want an "It's a fit-up, guv" icon.

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Alien

Never, never , never ........

"amanfrommars- on another site! ..... follow his link- he's clearly being unfaithful to El Reg and messing about on another site!

digital hussy... " ..... By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 2nd July 2008 23:24 GMT

AC,

Quite the contrary. JSG is an old friend which delivers a different flavour of opinion and content. And I would never dream of being disloyal or unfaithful to deserving good friends who like to share chatter transparently for All to See. If that has one thinking ....digital hooker ..... then so be it. :-) ...... although it would be about as far removed from a clumsy ten buck knee-trembler as is possible.

Think courtesan consort rather than pimped pro.

No legal eagles posting on El Reg to venture an opinion on the question posed?

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@amanfromMars

"Does that mean that it is considered lawful to spy on citizens whose legitimate business interests and activities will result in substantial financial gain, thus rendering them disadvantaged and their dealings likely to be insider traded/phished by third parties for their substantial financial gain?"

---> I would say something should be done about this financial gain from stealing others hard work. That is corssing the line, IMHO.

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Unhappy

@David Sinclair

1) Ok, I concur on that, it's part of an EU thing and for as long as we're in the EU we have to obey the rules. No one else does of course, but Britain must or we get punished.

2) Why should he change the record? Councils are getting caught more and more often acting like a bunch of petty minded toerags, abusing their positions and abusing some frankly scary laws. When we can trust them to behave like a bunch of responsible and sensible adults, THEN we'll change the record.

3) OMG "so other methods need to be used to obtain the evidence"? So what you are saying is the ends justify the means. It doesn't matter how many rights, how many laws and how many people's privacy we violate, providing we catch just one slightly naughty person, it's all fine and dandy???????????

4) Again, fair point, but I'd rather live in a Society that wasn't populated by a bunch of self obsessed "I'm all right Jack" w*nkers. An attitude that seems to be being bred into an entire sequence of generations.

Ultimately, all that is need to solve this problem is a Police Force and a Govt. we can trust and rely. At the mo, and for long time in the future as far as I can tell, we have neither.

Oh, and when posting "AC" you need to actually tag "post anonymously" - seriously hope you don't get into trouble (like the silly bugger I work with who bumped into the MD at lunch time in town... when he was "ill").

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Alien

@amanfromMars: re: Never, Never, Never

…Google, and reading comments elsewhere tell at least part of the story of your digital meanderings. This is good, however, it shows you don't get your news from, (and thus form opinions based upon) only one source. I would hate to think that the source of so many conspiracy theories was a website monogamist!

Digital hussy...this is all wrong. Simply "virtually experienced." :D

That said, post lots. Post more. Post often. It gives us more data to refine our software with. With enough time and effort, we might be able to figure out Who You Really Are. <Insert insane laugh.> (Current money around the water cooler being on a .com King, reading El Reg to keep the pulse of the IT world. I vote Woz.)

Actually, come to think of it, being an awesome enough coder to write something that COULD compare all posts everywhere on every level of the internet to figure out who you are would be fantastic. Alas, I am but a simple Sysmin, and my code-fu is not that strong…

Until next time!

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Anonymous Coward

Why do you think the state is so against entering Europe

This is another example of how as individuals we would benefit from being proper Euro citizens, the state in this country does not have the best interests of the general public in mind when making laws.

Who cares who's face is on the money, at least it wouldn't be being given to the likes of Northern Rock and Lord's Names when they loose their bets.

If we had the same legal protection as the French we wouldn't have to worry about the likes of PHORM we could sue the b**tards rather than just move away from the criminal ISPs.

We have no rights in this country unless you are really rich then you can do anything you like without fear of prosecution, the state looks after it own ( not the public).

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