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26 January 2015

Civil Matters

UK’s use of secret evidence in courts a ‘threat to rule of EU law’

The UK’s use of secret evidence in courts has been singled out for severe criticism in a new report commissioned by an influential European committee in Brussels.

The 150-page study, which examined the use of secret evidence in seven leading EU countries, says government requests for evidence to be considered in secret on the grounds of national security are “significantly hindering” the judiciary from ensuring fair trials.

The report, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), says the use of secret evidence undermines human rights and poses a “threat to the rule of law” in Europe.

It reserved the UK for particular criticism. One of the report’s authors told a seminar in London last week that Britain was a “worrying example of what can go wrong”.

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Encryption will lead to ‘ethically worse’ behaviour by spies, says former GCHQ chief

The increasing use of encryption technologies in everyday emails and messaging services will lead to “ethically worse” behaviour by the intelligence agencies, a former head of GCHQ has predicted.

Sir David Omand warned there would be greater intrusion on individuals’ privacy, not less, if agencies are unable to intercept communications – because they will be forced into more direct spying methods.

US companies such as Apple and Google are introducing more sophisticated encryption options to their customers while signalling their unwillingness to co-operate in full with government demands to obtain their users’ data.

One way of getting around problems of reading encrypted messages on services such as Whatsapp and iMessage is to hack directly into people’s computers, phones and other devices, and monitor the messages as they are written.

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