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Time for surveillance transparency

Today the three heads of Britain's intelligence agencies appear infront of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in a televised hearing, the first time for such a hearing to be broadcast. Progress, yes, but let's not get ahead of ourselves - the head of the CIA first appeared on TV speaking to congress in 1975, so it's hardly a revolution in oversight. Today we have published new polling by

GCHQ faces legal action over mass surveillance

Today Big Brother Watch, working with the Open Rights Group, English PEN and German internet activist Constanze Kurz, has announced legal papers have been filed alleging that GCHQ has illegally intruded on the privacy of millions of British and European citizens. We allege that by collecting vast amounts of data leaving or entering the UK, including the content of emails and social media messages, the UK’s spy

Patients win choice of sharing medical records

Earlier this year, we led the concern that a new NHS data sharing plan would see every patient's medical records uploaded to a new information system without the right to opt-out. We warned at the time that patient records would be out of patient control. On Friday, the Secretary of State confirmed that this will not be the case. We have worked closely with MedConfidential and Privacy International to ensure

Boom in private investigators risks avoiding surveillance regulation

Our latest report highlights the growing use of private investigators by local and public authorities, particularly the number of times they are used without RIPA authorisation. The law in the UK, particularly the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, is broadly drawn to allow evidence to be introduced in court that in other jurisdictions would not be deemed admissible. Contrasted with the fruit of the poisonous

Ministry of Justice

Can the Lords salvage something from the Justice and Security Bill?

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Civil Liberties, Ministry of Justice | 2 Comments

5946829399_e633991652_oToday Andrew Tyrie MP and Anthony Peto QC have published their follow-up paper on the Justice and Security Bill for the Centre for Policy Studies. It makes for harrowing reading.

The Bill now heads back to the Lords today, where it started. The House of Lords voted for major amendments, introducing more discretion for judges and making the use of CMPs a last resort. The Government removed most of these amendments during Committee stage, in most cases by a single vote, despite repeated warnings that the Bill’s proposals constitute a radical departure from fundamental constitutional principles.

As Andrew Tyrie MP says: “The Lords did good repair work on the Bill, but the Government has undone much of it. The Lords now have a final chance to restore their original sensible amendments and further improve the Bill.  I very much hope that they will do take it.”

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“Undignified” practice of child strip searches still taking place

Posted on by Emma Carr Posted in Child protection, Ministry of Justice, Privacy | 8 Comments

school_corridorUnbelievably, tens of thousands of children, as young as 12, are still being subjected to the “undignified” practice of strip searches, despite reassurances from the Youth Justice Board.

Results from an FOI request found that there had been 43,000 recorded incidents of children being strip searched in young offender institutions, secure children’s homes and secure training centers in the 21 months up to December 2012, with only 275 searches finding “illicit” items. When items were found, the most common was tobacco and on no occasions were discoveries of drugs or knives recorded; hardly life or death situations. In 99.4% of searches nothing was found.

The humiliating and intrusive practice should only be used in a limited amount of serious cases against adults, never mind children. The regulation of these intrusive and disproportionate powers is far too weak and urgently needs to be properly addressed. Why are so many searches being conducted and yet so few finding anything? Is this yet another area where powers are being used frequently without suspicion?

Four essential safeguards MPs must back

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Civil Liberties, Legal Action, Ministry of Justice | 1 Comment

5946829399_e633991652_oTime is running out to ensure that the British legal system is not fundamentally altered in favour of the State’s desire to keep secret what it chooses. Today several amendments to the Justice and Security Bill are before the House and we urge MPs to back them, if they are unwilling to vote against Part 2 of the Bill.

The House of Lords amendments to safeguard the use of Closed Material Procedures were a reasonable and practical way of ensuring that legislation did not put undue power in the hands of the Executive to keep inconvenient and embarrassing matters secret. Anthony Peto QC, co-Head of Blackstone Chambers, has perfectly highlighted how the Government removed “four sensible and clear safeguards introduced, with overwhelming majorities, by the Lords” – they were:

  • That Judges should refuse CMP’s where the public interest in the fair and public administration of justice outweighed the likely damage to national security.
  • A provision that CMPs should be a measure of last resort.
  • That the judge must first consider PII before ordering a CMP.
  • That the citizen must have the same right to apply for a CMP as the State.

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Write to your MP about the Justice and Security Bill today

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Civil Liberties, International, Legal Action, Ministry of Justice | 13 Comments

Time is running out to ensure that the British legal system is not fundamentally altered in favour of the State’s desire to keep secret what it chooses.

The House of Lords attempted to introduce safeguards to the Justice and Security Bill – but they were overturned at Committee stage in the Commons.

The latest assessment from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, publishing its second legislative scrutiny report, warned that there were still a number of significant issues that had not been addressed by the Government.

Andrew Tryie MP and Anthony Peto, QC wrote a damning paper for the Centre for Policy Studies ‘Neither Just nor Secure’ while former Labour Minister Chris Mullin joined critics arguing the Bill “will be deeply damaging to the integrity of our legal system in the eyes of the world.”

A letter signed by 702 legal experts called the Bill ‘dangerous and unnecessary’ while the Special Advocates’ latest analysis,  argues there is “no compelling justification for the proposals in Part 2 of the Bill has been made out, notwithstanding the Government’s assertions to the contrary“.

You can download a letter to send to your MP now – time is running out.


Evidence of things not seen

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Judicial review, Ministry of Justice | 1 Comment

5946829399_e633991652_oThis week, Big Brother Watch submitted our response to the consultation on Judicial Review. In conclusion, we say:

“An overwhelming number of points in the consultation document are anecdotal and unsubstantiated; indeed many are contradicted by official figures. This consultation is absolutely not a document that should be relied upon when embarking on reform of one of our most fundamental legal rights.”

Along with many other organisations, we’ve highlighted the startling lack of evidence in the Ministry of Justice’s consultation document. Anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims are casually deployed to justify reducing the scope of when judicial review applications can be made, but the underlying figures overwhelmingly undermine the department’s claims.

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