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Lauri Love: court rejects extension of police powers

This morning at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Nina Tempia rejected a National Crime Agency (NCA) request to use the court’s case management powers to order Lauri Love to hand over his encryption keys, preventing a dangerous precedent that would have given UK police new powers to compel people to decrypt their electronic devices, even if they are not suspected of a crime.

Remarking on the NCA’s application, the judge said that authorities must instead use the existing legal regime created by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) if they wish to compel someone to surrender encryption keys, and that the court’s case management powers cannot be used by authorities to circumvent statutory safeguards in RIPA.

Lauri Love’s solicitor, Karen Todner, said:

Mr Love is very pleased with the decision of District Judge Tempia today not to grant the direction requested by the NCA. This was clearly the right outcome.

The case raised important issues of principle in relation to the right to respect for private life and right to enjoyment of property and the use of the Court’s case management powers. A decision in the NCA’s favour would have set a worrying precedent for future investigations of this nature and the protection of these important human rights.

The NCA first served a RIPA Notice on Mr Love in February 2014 but took no further action to continue it after he did not comply. Over two years later, by seeking a direction from the Court for Mr Love to disclose the encryption keys and passwords, the NCA were clearly attempting to circumvent the proper statutory mechanisms put in place by Parliament for the investigation of encrypted data and the important safeguards tied in with these. The District Judge rightly saw through this approach and found in Mr Love’s favour.

We continue to defend his extradition proceedings which are ongoing.

Lauri Love’s lead counsel, Ben Cooper of Doughty Street Chambers, said:

By rejecting the NCA’s application, the Court has made clear that authorities may not seek to avoid the statutory protections intended by Parliament. This is a welcome and appropriate ruling on an important point of law.

Welcoming the ruling, Courage Acting Director Sarah Harrison said:

Lauri Love has successfully staved off the NCA’s attempt to circumvent standing protections in order to acquire his encryption keys by the back door. Judge Tempia rightly recognised that the NCA’s request went well beyond what is appropriate. Public scrutiny has played an important role here and we also need to remember that’s something the NCA tried to prevent when they argued for a reporting restriction.

By making a stand for his own privacy Lauri Love has prevented a further erosion of rights for everyone in the UK, at a time when the ability to store and convey information securely is at risk all over the world. We all owe Lauri a debt of thanks – and the best way to do that is to make a donation to his defence fund to help him in his battle against extradition.

Lauri Love’s legal battles are far from over. On 28-29 June, Lauri returns to Westminster Magistrates’ Court for his extradition hearing.  He is wanted in three separate United States court districts, which have issued indictments alleging that Love participated in the 2013 #OpLastResort protests in support of Aaron Swartz. The Courage Foundation is raising funds for Lauri Love’s legal defence.

Judge Tempia’s full ruling is below. See other documents in Lauri’s civil and extradition cases here.

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