back to article UK jails schizophrenic for refusal to decrypt files

The first person jailed under draconian UK police powers that Ministers said were vital to battle terrorism and serious crime has been identified by The Register as a schizophrenic science hobbyist with no previous criminal record. His crime was a persistent refusal to give counter-terrorism police the keys to decrypt his …


This topic is closed for new posts.


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the moral of this story is ...

    Leave the UK while you still can!

  2. Doc Spock
    Black Helicopters

    Regieme Change Please...

    "There could be child pornography, there could be bomb-making recipes," said one detective.

    I'm sure there's a well-known mantra in law that says "suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty." Or at least there used to be.....

  3. Eddie Edwards

    Riiight, this poor guy with traces of high explosives on him

    Less than 5ng is ignored, presumably meaning that more than 5ng is not. He had 9ng, and was unable to explain it. Might not be enough for a terrorism charge but it should be enough for a warrant to search his computer files. He then obstructed that. What is the legal system supposed to do? Say, "oh, that's OK, never mind"?

    What's the point of this story? It's fine for paranoid schizophrenics to play with high explosives and refuse to talk to the police about it? Yeah, right, because no harm could possibly come from that.

    You might have had more of a case against RIPA if he was of sound mind.

  4. Shamalam

    Jack Straw

    You need a "FAIL" stamp over his face in your picture.

    Frankly, every word out of his mouth is either a lie or some waffle to cover is total and utter failure in office. Every department he's managed is unfit for purpose.

    I can't even stand to look at the man, he's what's wrong with this country personified. An unprincipled liar.

  5. Edwin

    Tough call

    'cause the fallout would have been far worse if he *had* happened to be a lone lunatic, released and blew up a bunch of kids at a station.

    Until we're collectively willing to accept that risk, there will always be borderline cases like this.

  6. Shadowfirebird


    Is it me, or is it cold in here? I seem to be shivering.

    1. SC Handle


      RDX has 50% more explosive power than TNT. 9ng is nothing to worry about and could easily be transmitted in myriad ways.

      Unless you have factual information to add in some meaningful manner shut up.

      Also it may have escaped you but we used to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is not hard for the authorities to decrypt the files that Mr. JFL had on his computer. Maybe that would have been a better avenue of investigation. But no lets all be totally stupid and follow a crack pot government in believing that everyone is a terrorist. Not sure about you but the worst terrorist attacks in the UK I ever saw on TV were committed by the IRA not Alqueda. We didn't need these stupid laws then and we don't need them now. A, presumably given the lack of evidence to suggest otherwise, innocent person being sent to jail should bear this out to the likes of you. But you unfortunately seem to lack the where-with-all to have noticed.

      The real fail is on your part.

  7. Barney Carroll
    Big Brother

    You don't want to protect you just want to f***ing control

    These laws are ridiculous. They have no serious application for extremist terrorism. Picture this situation with a CTC officer versus a fanatic prepared to end his own life and that of others for ideological reasons, who possesses data he believes would compromise his cause:

    — Decrypt all your sensitive data within the hour or you go to prison for 5 years

    — Oh, all right then

    It just doesn't make any kind of sense in the situation in which it is purportedly applicable.

    In the meantime, the law-abiding citizen has no right to silence or privacy given police suspicion — and according to the numerous incidents (many of which reported here) on the accountability of police regarding their suspicion, police suspicion appears to be self-justifying.

  8. Sam Liddicott
    Thumb Down

    Where was the crime?

    They want to look at his private files /in case/ they find evidence of a crime!

    Do his files pertain to any alleged crime for which there is evidence?

    Apart from a poor attempt to get a replacement passport and missed bail, was anything wrong* done at all?

    *I mean what right-thinking folk would call wrong, not our imbecile overloads.

  9. Chris Hatfield

    What an utter, utter disgrace

    I cannot believe how ABSURD this law is. I forget passwords ALL THE TIME. Losing my data is punishment enough. But jail?!?!?

    Suggestions for all

    1. Use Truecrypt - plausible deniability. (Don't give the file an extension)

    2. Put random gibberish files on loads of computers. Like hundreds. Put them on peer-to-peer sites so that every computer in the land has them.

    To send someone with mental health problems to jail for not remembering something is beyond belief; I'm disgusted.

  10. Dick Emery
    Big Brother

    You have no rights

    The entire point of RIPA is to give those in power the ability to stomp all over Joe Q. Public with little fear or any comebacks. The fact that the person who is arrested is not allowed to tell anyone about the circumstances of their being detained. The fact that the right to silence is made out to be an admission of guilt. The fact that a fair trial is practically impossible. All these and more are the police state firmly pressing down it's steel toe capped boot our heads.

    RIPA is just one of a number of function creep powers designed specifically for controlling the populace without any regard to so called human rights.

    It does not matter if they are mistaken. If you don't cooperate to the fullest you are guilty and will be thrown in jail. Regardless of whether they have any real evidence to support thier accusations.

    Your are a number. Your freedom is illusary.

  11. Jonathan 17

    Quite horrifying

    Guilty until proven innocent eh? My sympathies for this guy.

    Its obvious that the plod wants to flex its muscle and show how powerful they are. Really just another gang.

    I would suggest RIPA Part III be altered so that section 49 can only be used if the suspect is suspected of particular crimes that his computer equipment could be hiding evidence of. As soon as the police dropped the terrorism charge, they should have dropped the section 49 charge because its now meaningless.

    Its actually the biggest farce in the world, and its a shame El Reg has been the first, or so far only, publication to carry the story. We will send you to prison because you didnt decrypt your data, but we dont want it anyway because we arent charging you for terrorism or paedophilia. What then do they want the data for?

  12. Winkypop Silver badge

    National security my arse!

    These guys are just playing cops and robbers with the poor man because they are frustrated terrorist takers. No Bin Ladens in the net this week? Pick on the mentally ill instead.

    "In his final police interview, CTC officers suggested JFL's refusal to decrypt the files or give them his keys would lead to suspicion he was a terrorist or paedophile."


    It's so obvious...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good grief

    They did him for having a pocket knife ... becuase they had nothing else on him. Claxons should have been sounding hard and fast from that point, if nowhere else.

    F***ing police. To think at one stage I wanted to wear the uniform of one of those rat bags. They should be ashamed of themselves ... and the Home Office should be hung, drawn and quartered for not keeping a reign on them.

  14. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    does it count as paranoid

    if they're really out to get you?

  15. Doc Spock
    Black Helicopters

    @Eddie Edwards

    QUOTE: "What is the legal system supposed to do? Say, "oh, that's OK, never mind"?"

    Well, they're meant to require the police to produce evidence that proves their accusation. For example, by using more traditional investigative techniques like stake-outs, phone-taps, records from ISPs, phone companies, etc. You know, _actual police work_.

  16. Hermes Conran

    @ eddie edwards

    Do you know how much a nanogramme is? You would have more than that amount if you shook hand with someone who shook hands with someone who had handled some explosives. This is way below the limit for cross contamination with the police themselves. Do the Birmingham six come to mind at all?

    1. Brian 6

      @Chris Hatfield

      He didn't forget them, he REFUSED to give them.

    2. Brian 6

      @Hermes Conran

      "Do you know how much a nanogramme is? You would have more than that amount if you shook hand with someone who shook hands with someone who had handled some explosives."

      Which is why 5 nano grammes and below is ignored. But he had 9 and u have to draw the line somewhere.

    3. John G Imrie Silver badge
      Big Brother

      They can suggest as much as they like

      As soon as they publicize this it's slander, and the will have to prove it with the evedence they now have.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Hang parliament

    This is precisely why I'm campaigning to persuade people to vote Lib Dem at the next election and hang parliament forcing a coalition government.

    I'm not a Lib Dem, however, I see a coalition as the only real chance we have to bring some accountability to Whestminster with the leading party having to rely on a co-party in order to gain the majority needed to legislate.

    I don't believe RIPA and similar lawas would have come into force if this had been the case, particularly as the Lib Dems seem to be the only party that even pay lip service to civil rights and feedoms these days.

    I would encourage anyone fed up with over legislation and the erosion of basic civil rights to consider such a vote - you can also join the campaign group on Facebook here:-

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just sad.

  19. Tom 15


    So a guy is found with traces of high explosives, doesn't turn up at court several times when he's meant to, is found with books and equipment for the manufacture of explosives, guns and drugs and he has more stuff on his PC that he's felt the need to encrypt several times over?

    He's either a criminal, in which case he should be jailed, or he's a nut, in which case he should be sectioned. The government have done both of these, so I'm not sure what there is to criticise?

  20. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

    Let's try something different...

    Let's put some alternative "There could be"s...

    "There could be spreadsheets with his household budget calculations. There could be pictures from his last holiday in Scarborough."

    Not so impressive now, is it?

  21. Cucumber C Face

    Shades of Dando

    Pick up some sad nutter at random and stitch them up for a crime they didn't commit.

    Only now with RIPA they can go one better - since no criminal act (by any reasonable criteria) was committed by anyone - other than the sadistic b@$3ards who perpetrated this injustice.

    Given [against the general perception] we seem to have so much free space in our prisons, there would be a strong case for prosecuting the politicians who created RIPA under suitable Human Rights Legislation (if only such existed).

  22. neb

    fuck me!

    this is scary

    though part of me likes to think that jfl was just being awkward in refusing to give passwords, and i know i'd like to think that i'd be as strong in the face of such bullshit

    but a 13 months fucking sentence is a joke

    i wish i could afford to leave this shithole and bring my kids up somewhere betterer!

    time to start saving harder i s'pose =(

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Problem.

    He had traces of an explosive on him (nearly double what is normally discounted)

    He repeatedly misses bail appearances.

    He makes multiple attempts to illegally obtain a passport.

    He refuses to provide the decryption keys.

    I've got no problems with him being jailed.

  24. Steve Swann

    I don't bloody believe it...

    All these measures. All these safeguards. DNA Databases, RIPA, gIMP, ID Cards; all to stop terrorists and the ONLY person arrested under these systems is a schizophrenic traveller with an interest in model rockets?!

    Surely, you're kidding?!

    Or is the truth that there ARE. NO. TERRORISTS?

    These are the instruments of control being put into place and then into operation. Oppose. Refuse. Resist.

    It's enough to make me want to write a blog, I tell you!

    1. SC Handle
      Thumb Down


      Then put your name next to your comment.

      What if he was in hospital during his bail appearances?

      What if he wanted to visit his dying mother in France so needed a passport?

      What if he had sensitive medical records he didn't want exposed in those encrypted files?

      What if he had just been handling a fireworks rocket that contained small amounts of RDX?

      Its just the same what iffing that the police played with the child porn and terrorism but flipped round.

      The guy is innocent until proven guilty - well was once - and there is no evidence against him. By the same token that you agree with him going to jail you should be in jail.

      I hope you encounter similar circumstances one day and that no-one cares about how your rights have been trampled on.

      Its funny how terrorists cannot take our freedoms, but our government can and has and that you support them doing so. I'll laugh once I have left this country. Laugh that you are still here.

  25. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    If this had happened to a British Citizen in some communist/3rd world dictatorship, the media and everyone else would have been up in arms at the "travesty of justice".

    But as it occured in the uk, well...that's perfectly fine. He was obviously a heinious criminal and needed locking up for all our protection - not to mention to protect all the kiddies.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 Nanograms

    Could stray explosives incriminate the innocent?

  28. Richard Jukes


    This is nothing unusual. The way the police see it is simple, and has always been the same.

    You either play by their rules and co-operate otherwise you WILL have a problem. They will put pressure on you however they can do it, if that means arresting you for trivial crimes such as 'possession of a pocket knife' or indeed battering down your door with armed police - it doesnt matter, you either comply or they will cause trouble for you.

    I wonder how many full body searches this guy was put through?

    I was threatned with either take the caution - or we will seize all computer hardware in your house - regardless of whose equipment it is, confiscate everything you own and more than likely put you on remand - all for 1/10th of a gram of MDMA which they could not prove was mine.

    End of the day its simple, be reasonable with them, be fair and they will be fair and reasonable with you. But start being arsey - even if you are within the law to do so, and you will have trouble. Regardless of whether your innocent or guilty, its all about attitude and the Police are there to do a very hard job.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am with AC 12:25

    The guy was being dodgy

    he missed bail

    he tried to leave the country

    tried to get another passport twice.

    and refuses to supply his encryption keys.

    His mental health issues asside the guy is nutty.

    Sectioned is probably the best place for him

  30. yossarianuk
    Thumb Down

    The Tories took away our right to silence (1994)

    We have no had right to silence since 1994. The last conservative government took that away ...

    Strange to think that RIPA was introduced to fight terrorism pre 9/11

  31. Georgees

    Guitly until not proven guilty but still sent to jail.

    "There could be child pornography, there could be bomb-making recipes," said one detective.

    There could be pictures of barney the dinosaur and poems. You don't know, so don't comment.

    Also, bomb making recipes are not proof of terrorism. I believe I have some on my hard drive somewhere.

    Not AC because the black heli can suck my big one.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @Tom 15

    "So a guy is found with traces of high explosives, doesn't turn up at court several times when he's meant to, is found with books and equipment for the manufacture of explosives, guns and drugs and he has more stuff on his PC that he's felt the need to encrypt several times over?"

    So - prosecute him for the crimes he has committed.. Failure to appear.


    9ng of explosives, as mentioned earlier, is below the limit of cross contamination. I'll type this slowly for you - there is no proof he got it whilst commiting, or planning to commit a crime.

    He has books? ZOMG - he reads. Off with his head. None of the books are illegal to possess, nor read. What law would you have him tried under? Have you never, once, wondered how true to life films are? Can you really make explosives like they do in Fight Club? Never read up to find out how? No curiosity at all or do you just accept everything that is spoonfed to you?

    Encrypted files? Well that is it. Might as well execute him now. What if they are photos of him with his married lover that he refuses to decrypt to protect the other party?

    All in all it is nothing more than circumstantial evidence at best, coincidence at worse. WTF happened to innocent until PROVEN guilty. The only thing you should be critising is how it became acceptable to jail people on the off chance that they may have done something wrong.

    I really, seriously, hope it never happens to you.

  33. Bitsucker

    It's not a 13 month sentance!

    The defendant was jailed for 13 months, then consigned to a lunatic asylum indefinitely. On what grounds has he been sectioned? The article mentioned no reasons, other than he refused to cooperate with the authorities. That's the kind of thing that used to take place in the Soviet Union.

    Grenade because people should be getting angry...

  34. Charles Calthrop


    I was going to make an amusingly sarcastic comment about the article, then I realised that it had scared me quite a lot.

    Good to see a man with principles defend them, I suppose. On the other hand, traces of explosive is a bit odd.

    Uneasy all around on this one.

  35. Secretgeek

    Inducement to confess.

    "Unless you tell us we're never gonna know... What is anybody gonna think?"

    This is known as an inducement to confess and is widely regarded, even in the police's own training and guidance, as a very bad thing to do in an interview under caution.

    Effectively it would make the results of any 'confession' inadmissable under the HRA.

    Nice to see human rights aren't top of their agenda.

    Sorry did I say 'nice'? I meant 'What a fucking atrocious state of affairs...'

  36. Hollerith 1

    he was his own worst enemy, but that still doesn't mean...

    ... that the Police should have wasted their time hounding him. A smart person who gets sucked into the undertow of police attention does NOT miss bail or court appearances, but gets themselves a lawyer immediately, and doesn't screw himself with silly actions such as carrying a knife or trying to get a new passport. He is one of those people who just keep doing stupid things, most probably because of his mental condition. Believing that he has a right to silence is another stupidity. A decent lawyer could have saved him from himself.

    But the police should not be going for such an easy target, nor should they hound him because he pissed them off. It's too easy to chase a non-threat like this, and to feel the heady surge of power of another human being, than it is to do the hard work of actually catching terrorists so, instead of bending over backwards to consider the whole of his case (mental illness, children's toys, bit of a saddie) they decided to ramp it up. Poor judgement and self-indulgence from the police, and now yet another harmless person in prison for no reason but coming to the attention of the authorities.

  37. Toastan Buttar
    Big Brother

    @Chris Hatfield

    "To send someone with mental health problems to jail for not remembering something is beyond belief; I'm disgusted."

    He didn't forget the password; he deliberately withheld it on principle. There's a big difference and I admire him for his convictions. Much as I'd love to do the same in his situation, I'd crumble facing the threat of prison time AND being branded a potential paedo. I've heard life inside isn't too pleasant for those so accused.

    Yes, the guy seems like a bit of a weirdo loner but if he's truly a threat to society, why wasn't he sectioned previously ?

  38. Chris Hedley

    Re: Gaol teh nuttarz !!1!eleven

    > "He's either a criminal, in which case he should be jailed, or he's a nut, in which case he should be sectioned."

    I'm afraid you seem to have made a wrong turn. The Daily Mail's the third door on the left.

    Sigh. I'm reminded of Monty Python's "burn the witch!" sketch. Not quite so amusing when it's actually happening, though.

  39. Thomas 18

    @AC 12:25 & Eddie

    If you can kill your partner because of a sleep disorder and not do any time ( ). I think you should be able to behave in a paranoid manner without going to jail.

    They aren't charging him for any crimes except refusing to decrypt files (missing bail, obtaining passport, reading explosive magazines etc) they even acccept he doesn't pose a threat to national security which means they accept he isn't a credible bomb maker.

    They are just pissed at him for standing up to them because they cant understand his point of view. Epic fail of the system.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Richard Jukes

    So you got a criminal record which will be flagged if you ever get a crb or vetted possibly travel abroad (depending on how various computer systems and immigration officials are feeling that day) when they couldn't prove you were a criminal?

    Sounds like a mighty just system we're running.

  41. Gianni Straniero
    Big Brother

    TrueCrypt FTW

    Interesting article, which boils down to the fact that the poor lad was jailed for pissing off the Plod.

    I especially like this:

    "One file encrypted using software from the German firm Steganos was cracked, but investigators found only another PGP container."

    Imagine their faces...

    At least we know Steganos is no damn good for encryption. And as Chris Hatfield says above, TrueCrypt gives you plausible deniability.

  42. Michael Fremlins

    Metropolitan Police's elite Counter-Terrorism Command

    What is "elite" about them? We've seen one innocent man killed on the Tube, and another person the recipient of a negligent discharge. On both occasions, these "elite" police walked away free of charge.

  43. Craig 12


    On the one hand, RIPA is scary.

    On the other hand, we have a guy travelling internationally, failing to get into countries and failing to go to court. I would be suspicious of him as well, although dare I say he is doing the right thing by shutting up. It's lose-lose?

  44. REMF

    Hist own worst enemy........... but

    this is an inappropriate application of a badly drafted law, who'd a thought it possible that something like this could happen, eh?

  45. DefUnct

    @Eddie Edwards

    The point i think is not this drama you seem to make of it, but that before the RIPA powers were implemented, and security was this tight, im fairly sure amateur scientists, rocket modelers, RC modelers and many other types of people who use flammables, explosives or other chemicals etc were making trips and never being botherd. Neither did they do anythint to anyone.

    When police DID single someone out, they had to actually DO some police work to figure out if this person had done anything, if there was a case to answer, and they had to do ALL this while still respecting that persons rights. Didnt find anything? Tough - The person does NOT have to talk to you.

    This new legislation is a cop out for lazy incapable cops who just want everything to be easy, "open sesame" and without any though, analysis or real interest just classify people as "guilty of something"


This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019