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Privacy campaigners welcome decision to review Investigatory Powers Tribunal

A PRIVACY rights group claimed victory today after the Supreme Court ruled that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s (IPT) decisions are subject to judicial review in the High Court.

The IPT is a judicial body that receives complaints about surveillance by public bodies. Although it claims to be independent from government, it is funded by the Home Office.

Campaign group Privacy International sought a guarantee from Britain’s highest court that the IPT’s mistakes can be rectified if it gets the law wrong.

The case stems from a 2016 decision by the IPT that the government may use sweeping “general warrants” to hack thousands or even millions of devices, without any approval from by a judge or reasonable grounds for suspicion.

The government argued that it would be lawful in principle to use a single warrant signed off by a minister to hack every mobile phone in a British city, which the IPT agreed with. This decision was taken to the High Court by Privacy International.

In his Supreme Court judgment, Lord Carnwath wrote: “The legal issue decided by the IPT is not only one of general public importance, but also has possible implications for legal rights and remedies going beyond the scope of the IPT’s remit.

“Consistent application of the rule of law requires such an issue to be susceptible in appropriate cases to review by ordinary courts.”

Caroline Wilson Palow, Privacy International’s general counsel, said: “The judgment is a historic victory for the rule of law.”

Megan Goulding, a lawyer at human rights group Liberty, said: “All state bodies, particularly those with the powers available to intelligence agencies, must be accountable, and subject to the highest levels of scrutiny to ensure that they are not above the law.”


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