Spies ‘did not meet privacy rules’

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Published: Wednesday 18th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Intelligence agencies’ policies for handling legally-privileged communications have not met the full requirements of European human rights, the Government has admitted.

The concession has been made in relation to an ongoing legal claim brought on behalf of rendition victim Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who claims communications with lawyers were unlawfully intercepted and may have been used to provide the Government with an advantage in court.

A recent judgment made by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that safeguards applied by agencies to intercept material must be made “sufficiently public” in order to satisfy requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In light of this judgment, the Government has conceded that policies applied by the agencies since 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically Article 8, which protects the right to privacy.

A Government spokesman said: ” Our security and intelligence agencies are subject to robust legal oversight and independent safeguards.

“The concession the Government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the ECHR.

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies applied since 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically Article 8.

“This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on the part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligation to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously.

“Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.

“The agencies will now work with the independent Interception of Communications Commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.

“This work has already begun with publication earlier this month of an updated draft Interception Code of Practice.

“This draft, which is currently out to consultation, sets out enhanced safeguards and provides more detail than ever before on the protections that must be applied to privileged material.”

Today’s concession does not concern the alleged interception of the claimants’ communications, which will be considered by the IPT.

Published: Wednesday 18th February 2015 by The News Editor

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