The Society issued a warning today following the government's announcement that it would introduce emergency surveillance legislation in response to the European Court of Justice Ruling in April. Legislation which affects the privacy and freedoms of the individual should, whenever possible, be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny.
New Law Society president Andrew Caplen said:
"The government's review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is welcome. We have been calling for a review of RIPA and associated legislation for some years.
"However, we are concerned that introducing emergency legislation does nothing to enhance the rule of law or address the fact that we are increasingly becoming a 'surveillance society'. The history of emergency legislation is not exemplary, with laws being used for purposes for which they were not intended. Today's news is particularly worrying, given the emergency legislation will go against a court judgment on human rights.
"There needs to be a public debate about how to strike the right balance between security, freedom and privacy. We need to simplify and clarify a complex and confusing legal framework and ensure that it protects human rights."
The Law Society is calling for:
• A wide-ranging review of the legal and practical framework of surveillance in the UK
• Explicit legislative protection for legal professional privilege in legislation like RIPA.
• The development of a future legislative framework that reflects public consensus as well as the expert views of relevant technologists, jurists, academics and civil liberties groups.
Andrew Caplen will be leading a debate on the topic of surveillance at the American Bar Association conference in Boston this August as part of our ongoing work in this area.