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CPS drop case against Phorm and BT over RIPA breaches
Friday 08 April 2011 16:37:14 by John Hunt

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have decided not to prosecute a case against BT and Phorm following a trial by the companies of technology which tracked users' web browsing without their knowledge or consent. The trial was believed to be in contravention of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which makes it unlawful to intercept communications except in special circumstances.

The news came in the form of a letter to Alexander Hanff of Privacy International, who personally pushed the CPS to pursue the case against BT and Phorm. Insufficient evidence was stated as the reason why the prosecution could not be pursued, and "very considerable further work of investigation" would be required to change this. Expert evidence had been obtained to understand how the BT and Phorm technology worked, but they believed that obtaining more evidence wouldn't affect their assessment. The CPS also felt that the case would not be in the public interest to pursue. A full statement can be found on the CPS blog.

  1. The suspects took a considerable amount of legal advice prior to commencing the trial.
  2. The trial was planned; there is insufficient evidence to suggest that there was premeditation to commit an offence (Code 4.16). Legal advice was obtained both by BT and Phorm.

The suspects were in possession of authority or trust (Code paragraph 4.16n). The evidence does not suggest that they were seeking to specifically take advantage of that position.

CPS in Letter to Alexander Hanff

Hanff is naturally disappointed by the announcement and is worried about what precedent this sets for other companies who may be able to hide behind the guise of gaining legal advice for any actions they take.

"My argument is that wholesale interception of the nations communications for commercial gain is absolutely a public interest issue and refusal to prosecute undermines confidence in our entire judicial system; it paints a very clear picture that big business is above the law."

Alexander Hanff, privacy campaigner

Hanff said he was considering filing for a Judicial Review and would look into whether he could file a complaint to the SRA about the legal advice the lawyers acting on behalf of BT and Phorm gave. This, therefore, looks like it might not be the end of this saga against Phorm which started in 2007 when users of the thinkbroadband forums discovered oddities with their BT Internet broadband connections.


Posted by FirstNetServ2 over 6 years ago
This just shows how corrupt are legal system is.
Posted by 12eason over 6 years ago
Does this site just take news stories from the BBC and repost them an hour later?
Not much of a special interest site if you're not even first with news you specialise in.
Posted by Mikebear over 6 years ago
"Not much of a special interest site if you're not even first with news you specialise in."

Are you prepared to pay to enable this site to employ full-time news gathering staff?
Posted by shaunhw over 6 years ago
"Not much of a special interest site..."

A bit below the belt that! Articles first seen elsewere should be posted here, so interested parties can discuss the ramifications and implications of the news etc.

If you don't like this site, start one of your own. Could you do better ? Not with comments like that!

My guess is the CPS won't prosecute as they would be frightened of taking on BT's legal team, who I could imagine might work full time there.
Posted by adslmax over 6 years ago
BT is once again, get away with it.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

Ispreview is another good one, debates are better here though when a good article comes up.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
how do you define "in the public's interest"? law is law and should be followed regardless of who's interests it is.
Posted by rizla over 6 years ago
People here seem to be under the misapprehension that the CPS (or Crown Office in Scotland) acts in the public interest.

It does not, nor has it ever been obliged to. The clue is in the name - CROWN Prosecution Service, not PUBLIC Prosecution Service.

Earlier in the 20th century England & Wales had a system similar to the US "Grand Jury". Churchill (and pretty much all politicians) spent years trying to get rid of the system as they couldn't control it. They eventually succeeded in eliminating that system in 1934.

tl;dr there is no "rule of law" in the UK.
Posted by TheGuv over 6 years ago
I really thought this was a waste of time in the first place. It's not that those who break the law should not be punished - it's more proving that people were harmed because of the trial that would be difficult to prove.

To pursue this has been/would have been a waste of tax payers money.

I also think the public backlash from this has scared most companies away from railroading in anything like this again so in effect the public outcry/campaigns have done their bit.
Posted by leejhamilton over 6 years ago
Well I'm a member of the public, and I think its a good idea. Now the precedent has been set, will big companies just do what they want and the law be damned? "The trial was believed to be in contravention of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which makes it unlawful to intercept communications except in special circumstances." So when did advertisements be classed as special circumstances?
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
key word "believed" - by who - privacy campaigners perhaps ?

Until *found* to be in contravention by a Court then it isn't. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.
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