Blackstone and Bhatt Murphy bring internet spy case against GCHQ

Blackstone Chambers’ Ben Jaffey and Tom Cleaver have been drafted in by Bhatt Murphy on behalf of a group of internet service providers (ISPs) that have launched a legal claim against the Government over surveillance.

Bhatt Murphy director Mark Scott has instructed the public law duo on the claim filed against Government monitoring organisation GCHQ and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). The seven ISPs, from a number of countries, claim that the Government is using malicious software to break into their networks and spy on users. 

The claim alleges that the surveillance contravenes Articles 1 of the First Protocol, 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The IPT is the tribunal that hears complaints against the UK security services. It does not always hold oral hearings, but the claimants in this case – the UK’s GreenNet, US ISPs Riseup and May First/People Link, Zimbabwean company Mango Email Service, South Korea’s Jinbonet, Dutch company Greenhost, and Germany’s Chaos Computer Club – are seeking a public hearing for their complaint.

The potential litigation follows revelations leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, exposing the scale of government surveillance. Specifically, the ISPs’ claim focuses on allegations made in German paper Der Spiegel, claiming that GCHQ had used malware against Belgian telecoms company Belgacom.

The action is supported by Privacy International.

Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC, the ‘Treasury Devil’ has been instructed by the Government. He and Cleaver appeared on opposite sides of the judicial review claim into the final resting place of Richard III earlier this year, with Eadie triumphing for the Ministry of Justice (23 May 2014).

Jaffey’s recent cases include appearing for the Financial Conduct Authority on its successful appeal against the stay of the ‘Operation Cotton’ fraud trial (21 May 2014).