Ruling: IPT rulings in Liberty v Others cases

Liberty and Others v GCHQ and Others was a case combining various complaints made by privacy groups including Liberty, Amnesty International, Privacy International and others, heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.  The complainants alleged that the interception activities of various UK bodies including GCHQ and the Home Office contravened Articles 8, 10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in relation to the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination. In December 2014 the tribunal decided the UK’s surveillance activities were compatible with the European Convention’s privacy and freedom of expression guarantees. [1] In April 2015, the privacy groups involved lodged a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the arguments rejected in the December ruling.

A further ruling of the IPT in February 2015 found, for the first time in the Tribunal’s history, against the intelligence agencies. It declared that intelligence sharing between the UK and the United States was, prior to December 2014, in contravention of Articles 8 or 10 of the ECHR, because the rules governing the UK’s access to the NSA’s PRISM and UPSTREAM programmes were secret. However, the Tribunal also noted that at the time of its ruling, the agencies were in compliance with the relevant law. [2]

A final ruling of the IPT in this series on 22 June 2015 ruled that GCHQ had acted unlawfully in the way it handled intercepted private communications of the two of the foreign claimants: Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in South Africa. The Tribunal found only “technical” breaches of GCHQ’s internal procedures, which are secret. The court declared that there has been a breach of the EIPR’s Article 8 rights and ordered GCHQ to destroy any of the intercepted communications that were retained for longer than the relevant retention time limit. With regard to the LRC, the Tribunal ruled that “the interception was lawful and proportionate and that the selection for examination was proportionate, but that the procedure laid down by GCHQ’s internal policies for selection of the communications for examination was in error not followed in this case.” Since the data was not used, the Tribunal considers there to be no damage done to the LRC.

[1] Liberty and Others v GCHQ and Others [2014] UKIPTrib 13_77-H, 5 December 2014

[1] Liberty and Others v GCHQ and Others [2015] UKIPTrib 13_77-H, 6 February 2015

[1] Liberty and Others v GCHQ and Others [2015] UKIPTrib 13_77-H , 22 June 2015