UK RIGHTS GROUP Privacy International (PI) has scored a landmark victory at the Supreme Court which has ruled that Investigatory Powers Tribunal's (IPT) decisions are subject to judicial review.
The ruling, which means that GCHQ security decisions can be challenged is ordinary UK courts, follows a legal challenge brought about by PI related to a 2016 decision that UK gov may use sweeping 'general warrants' to engage in the hacking of potentially millions of devices, without any approval from by a judge or reasonable grounds for suspicion.
"Too often, the government justifies intrusive surveillance powers by telling the public that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'. We throw that mantra back to the government — 'if you have nothing to hide about your hacking, you have nothing to hide from our courts," PI moaned at the time.
The government had argued that UK courts should not be allowed to review Tribunal decisions and that decisions of the IPT can only be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights.
Wednesday's 4-3 decision saw the Supreme Court rule against the government and declare that the extent of GCHQ's powers to hack into internet services should be subject to judicial review.
In his 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, PI's General Counsel, said: "Today's judgment is a historic victory for the rule of law. It ensures that the UK intelligence agencies are subject to oversight by the ordinary UK courts.
"Countries around the world are currently grappling with serious questions regarding what power should reside in each branch of government. Today's ruling is a welcome precedent for all of those countries, striking a reasonable balance between executive, legislative and judicial power.
"Today's ruling paves the way for Privacy International's challenge to the UK government's use of bulk computer hacking warrants. Our challenge has been delayed for years by the Government's persistent attempt to protect the IPT's decisions from scrutiny. We are heartened that our case will now go forward." µ
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