Appeals Court: Britain's Snoopers Charter is illegal mass surveillance and must be urgently reformed

Just over a year ago, the top court in Europe ruled that the Snoopers Charter, a mass surveillance regime created by the ruling Tory party, was unconstitutional.

Now, Theresa May's government has lost its challenge before three judges in a UK appeals court, cementing the unconstitutionality of the plan to effect mass surveillance without oversight, accountability or proportionality.

The challenge came from Labour MP Tom Watson (previously), who condemned the legislation as having been "rushed" and blamed the Tories' unwillingness to properly debate the spying rule for surveillance of the communications data of "hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are innocent victims or witnesses to crime."

Liberty director Martha Spurrier blamed the Tories for crafting flawed, extremist legislation that leaves the UK without "a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms."

The Home Office announced a series of safeguards in November in anticipation of the ruling. They include removing the power of self-authorisation for senior police officers and requiring approval for requests for confidential communications data to be granted by the new investigatory powers commissioner. Watson and other campaigners said the safeguards were "half-baked" and did not go far enough.

The judges, headed by Sir Geoffrey Vos, declined to rule on the Home Office claim that the more rigorous "Watson safeguards" were not necessary for the use of bulk communications data for wider national security purposes.
The judges said the appeal court did not need to rule on this point because it had already been referred to the European court of justice in a case which is due to be heard in February.

UK mass digital surveillance regime ruled unlawful
[Alan Travis/The Guardian]