Press Update: Privacy International to Challenge High Court Ruling to Court of Appeal

Privacy International has filed its notice of appeal before the Court of Appeal, seeking a reversal of the High Court’s decision regarding jurisdiction in our case against GCHQ hacking.

Timeline of Activities:

May 2014

- Privacy International (“PI”) brings a complaint in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (“IPT”) against GCHQ hacking.

- PI’s complaint is joined by seven internet and communications providers from around the world.

- PI argues that GCHQ had no authority under UK law to hack, and that such activities violate Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which respectively protect the rights to privacy and freedom of speech.

February 2016

- IPT rejects PI’s claims.

- IPT accepts the Government’s position that GCHQ was permitted to seek “thematic warrants”, which are general warrants to hack inside and outside the UK. General warrants can cover an entire class of unidentified persons or property, such as “all mobile phones in London”.

May 2016

- PI files a judicial review at the High Court, challenging the IPT’s decision finding the Government can seek general hacking warrants.

-This decision fundamentally undermines 250 years of English common law, which has long rejected general warrants. The common law is clear that a warrant must target an identified individual or individuals. Parliament is presumed not to have overridden such a profound and fundamental right unless it clearly and expressly states that general warrants are now permissible, which it had not.

-The IPT’s decision also ignores that general warrants fail to comply with international human rights law, particularly Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. By permitting the Government to hack large groups of people without judicial authorisation and individualised suspicion, general warrants fail to protect against arbitrary interference and abuse.

June 2016

- The High Court determines that it would hive off, for initial consideration, the issue of whether it had jurisdiction (i.e. whether the IPT is amenable to judicial review).

February 2017

- The High Court holds that it lacked jurisdiction to hear our substantive claims, despite one of the judges expressing serious reservations as to whether the result was consistent “with the rule of law.” This outcome represents the first time that the Courts have ever accepted that Parliament has stripped them of jurisdiction to judicially review a Tribunal for an error of law.

23 February 2017

- Privacy International files its notice of appeal before the Court of Appeal, seeking a reversal of the High Court’s decision regarding jurisdiction.