Britain’s high court ruled on Friday, that new legislation granting the state “vital emergency surveillance” powers is illegal.
In the 45-page ruling, the court said a section of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act broke European Union human rights rules by allowing security services to obtain citizens’ private communications data without proper oversight.
The ruling effectively nullifies aspects of the law until next spring giving Parliament time to redraft the legislation.
DRIPA enabled British security officials to gather information about whom suspected criminals contact by telephone or email. It was fast-tracked last summer to keep the U.K. in line with new European Union laws governing the retention of data.
Two weeks later however, DRIPA was challenged in court by two lawmakers: David Davis, a libertarian Conservative, and Labour’s Tom Watson.
“The government’s hasty and ill-thought-through legislation is fatally flawed,” Davis said reveling in Friday’s ruling.
Judges said the act was “inconsistent with EU law” because it lacks precise guidelines on how mass communications could be accessed and doesn’t require approval by a court or independent administrative body that could exercise some degree of oversight.
“Legislation enacted in haste is more prone to error,” said judge, David Bean, in the ruling, which directed the government to redress those issues with sufficient parliamentary scrutiny.
The Cameron regime says it “disagree[s] absolutely” with the ruling, and argues that being able to access communications data is crucial to investigating a range of crimes.
Officials say they plan to appeal the decision.
“The effect of this judgment would be that in certain cases, communications data that could potentially save lives would only be available to the police and other law enforcement if a communications company had decided to retain it for commercial reasons,” Security Minister John Hayes said.
Home Secretary Theresa May is currently drafting a new Communications Data Bill, known as the the Snooper’s Charter, which would further strengthen the online surveillance powers of police and security services.