UK RIPA does not breach human rights

May 01, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

The European Court of Human Rights rejected a claim in 2010 that the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) violates the human right to a private life. The UK's rules and safeguards on covert surveillance are proportionate, said the court. The case concerned Malcolm Kennedy, a London businessman who was arrested for drunkenness in December 1990. He spent that night in jail and in the morning, another man in his cell was found dead. Kennedy was convicted of that man's murder but the verdict was overturned on appeal. A retrial collapsed when a key prosecution witness failed to appear. A second retrial resulted in Kennedy being convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Kennedy's conviction was highly controversial in the UK, due to missing and conflicting police evidence. It became the subject of a TV documentary. Kennedy has always maintained that police officers were responsible for the death and that he had been framed for a crime he did not commit. After being released from prison in 1996, Kennedy became an active campaigner against miscarriages of justice. He subsequently started a removals business, but that business suffered. Kennedy said that was because his mail, telephone and email communications were being intercepted.

He claimed that calls to his phone were not being put through to him and that he was receiving a number of time-wasting hoax calls. He said that the interception was directly linked to his high-profile case and his campaigning activities. He alleged that the police and security services were continually and unlawfully renewing an interception warrant, originally authorised for the criminal proceedings against him, in order to intimidate him and to undermine his business. Kennedy made subject access requests to intelligence agencies MI5 and GCHQ under the Data Protection Act, asking whether information about him was being processed by them. These requests were refused because the information requested was exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Act on the grounds of national security.

He then lodged complaints with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a body set up to investigate complaints about the use of powers contained in RIPA. Kennedy said his communications were being intercepted in “challengeable circumstances” amounting to a violation of his private life. The IPT rejected Kennedy's complaints. This meant either that there had been no interception or that any interception which took place was lawful.

Kennedy took his case to the ECHR in Strasbourg in 2005. Seven judges of the court unanimously rejected his claims.