back to article Prosecutors kick Phorm case upstairs

Prosecutors have further delayed a decision on whether anyone will be prosecuted over BT's secret trials of Phorm's web monitoring system. The case is now under consideration "at a senior level", the Crown Prosecution Service said in a letter to Alex Hanff, the privacy campaigner who complained after police refused to …


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  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Well, well, well.

    What a surprise. Another delay. Who ever would have thought that would happen.

  2. Christoph

    How long have they got?

    How long will they need to keep this going before they accidentally delay it past the last date at which they can prosecute?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    too many

    Friends of friends that contribute to the previous and current administrations and quango's for there ever to be a prosecution, It'll turn in to another govt inquiry with millions spent but nothing gained, just like Bloody Sunday, Guernsey child abuse and the dead taxi driver from the miners strike

    1. irish donkey

      I agree

      But does that mean that we shouldn't try?

      Afterall we don't live in China, Iran, UAE or any of those other countries which value personal privacy!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too mamy

      The higher these things go the more likely it is that friends of friends comes into play and the less likely there will be any prosecution.

      Doesn't anybody lower down have the guts to make a decision and then let the higher ups publicly squirm their way out of it.

  4. The Metal Cod

    CPS Haven't Got A Clue

    The Metropolitan Police have showed they haven't got a clue in relation to RIPA law and this case. Whilst I would love to see Ertugrul, Livingston, Vahidi, Scleparis and other BT & Phorm execs dragged into court and given the grilling they so richly deserve, I can't help but feel the CPS is trying to hang this on until they've found some weakass excuse they can pin a "no" decision on.

    It is in the public interest to prosecute the people responsible for mass breaches of RIPA, it would just be very embarrassing for the guilty parties when the whole truth comes out. That's the reason why a prosecution isn't something the former government and certain civil servants want to see.

    Have the CPS got the balls to prosecute? I say not.

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      To show good faith

      Is there any chance we can extradite the BT and Phorm boards to the US as hostages whilst Julian Assange appeals his case? Then we can honestly say we deal harshly with people who don't resPect private data AND have a national feel good moment.

      If we can throw BT and ex Labour minister Patricia Hewitt into the deal as a sweetener it'd make my day.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    Can we tag and curfew the whole BT management while the CPS keeps pondering how they can pretend that the law has not been broken?

  6. Vic

    Would this happen in a burglary case?

    There is clear evidence that a serious crime has been committed. RIPA allows for a sentence of 5 years per offence, and we have evidence of at least 38,000 individual offences.

    The police initially refused even to investigate. Under pressure, they made declarations about the law which are entirely without basis (and well beyond the remit of what they were supposed to be doing).

    Now we need a decision "at senior level" from the CPS about whether or not to prosecute.

    This wouldn't happen for most criminal activity - why is it even countenanced in the event of crimes committed by rich people?

    Oh, hang on...


    1. Anonymous Coward

      Anybody Surprised?

      Given Sony BMG shipped 150k+ root kits (violation S1 & S2 CMA90), with help from their suppliers in Bridgend (violations S3 CMA90), and the police and CPS never even looked at them, is anybody surprised?

      It's one law for the citizen, and a blind eye for anybody with a large lobbying firm!

  7. Mike Shepherd

    Be fair!

    Only 800 days? Give them a chance!

    Remember, the priorities are:

    1) When's the next tea break?

    2) Make sure I'm not blamed for anything.

    3) Two teas, Mildred!

    Thumb Down


    Simply the worst example of criminal corruption I've even witnessed in my life.

    It is obviously in the national interest (never mind the public interest) to prosecute people who engage in covert espionage, copyright theft, fraud, and computer misuse.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Flogging a dead horse......

      "It is obviously in the national interest (never mind the public interest) to prosecute people who engage in covert espionage, copyright theft, fraud, and computer misuse." .... Posted Friday 17th December 2010 12:53 GMT

      It is obviously not in the national security interest (never mind the public interest) to prosecute people who engage in covert espionage, copyright theft, fraud, and computer misuse.

      Move along now, nothing to see here.

  9. The Original Steve

    I reckon

    The suspected parties should be tagged, made to pay a securtiy deposit, report to the police daily and surrender their passports until a decision has been made.

  10. despairing citizen

    Excuses not to prosecute?

    Given that Phorm clearly breaks UK criminal and civil laws (RIPA, DPA, HRA......), and I personally can not forsee a jury having a problem convicting, given that while the technology may be complex, the intent and outcome are not, one can only assume that CPS needs more time to try and find an excuse not to prosecute.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    I think this could be worth the wait though ...

    It seems to me the CPS have completely ignored the fact that the European Court(s) of Justice have already started to look at this case, and will not take kindly to their (the CPS') attempt to mess around and waste time.

    I look forward to the EU ripping the UK a new one on this .....

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      I Can....

      The problem is that the EU will rip us a new one, in the form of a very big fine which the taxpayer will have to pay.

      Will it give the CPS a nudge? Possibly, but it'll be us that have to bear the cost of the fine

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Clown Prosecution Service?

        "The problem is that the EU will rip us a new one, in the form of a very big fine which the taxpayer will have to pay."

        Therefore it is indeed in the public interest to prosecute and fine (heavily) to cover all the costs to the taxpayer and not a penny less.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          CPS - Criminal Protection Service

          There are many serving and ex-police officers who refer to the CPS as the Criminal Protection Service, normally when they have had their case bounded.

          Bounced appears to occur for the following reasons;

          1. the police failed to collect enough evidence, and/or contaminated it (dodgy statements, etc.)

          2. it looks like hard work, so they will drop to a lower charge to get a quick "result"

          3. it looks like hardwork, and may adversly effect their "conviction rate" statistics

          4. it has implications on the paymasters (e.g. Junior Minister or Civil Servants wants to get a consulant or NED job at the company in question)

          5. They fail to understand the law as written


          Personally never understood the concept of the conviction rate stats, on the basis that if 100 innocent people are found not guilty at 100 trials, does the consequent Zero Percent conviction rate indicate a failing judical system?

  12. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    Realistic Prospects...

    When the CPS has to decide whether there is a "realistic prospect" of conviction, what exactly does it mean... it would be nice to know before they rely on it whether it's reasonable likelihood, balance of probabilities or something else. [Personally, whilst BT may be innocent until proven guilty I tend to think of this case as rather more Not Convicted until Defence Proved Vacuous...]

  13. Anonymous Coward

    A cunning plan?

    Maybe we could get all the BT managers extradited to somewhere where unauthorised interception of communications is still illegal.

    Is there such a place, I wonder?

  14. Ad Fundum

    CPS Quality Management System extract


    1. Lift carpet.

    2. Brush vigorously.

    3. Wait.

    4. Repeat as required.


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "In deciding whether or not to prosecute, the CPS must consider whether there is a realistic prospect of a conviction on the evidence available, and whether it would be in the public interest."

    So they aren't even bothering to consider the fact that the EC are going to hammer if they don't prosecute? Surely it is in the public interest to prosecute if the failure to prosecute will leave the tax payer with a bit fat law suit to settle.

    As far as I understand it the European word came down from on high that the Phorm trial was in breach of European law and that as such would be sued if they did not prosecute BT and or Phorm. So why are the CPS still farting around like this. Do they really believe that the European courts will accept their judgement in this? Or are they desperately trying to protect whoever it was at the Home Office who gave BT the go ahead?

    1. Vic

      Re: What?

      > So they aren't even bothering to consider the fact that the EC are going to

      > hammer if they don't prosecute?

      If it were genuinely against the public interest to prosecute, I would hope they would indeed ignore any such threats from the EU.

      But that doesn't describe the situation here. It is *clearly* in the public interest to prosecute to the fullest extent possible, and that happens to tie in nicely with what the EU want as well. We can do All The Right Things (tm) in one go.

      But that won't matter to the CPS. If they were genuinely interested in upholding the Law - both UK and EU - the prosecution would have happened a very long time ago. That we are jumping through ever more arcane hoops to try to avoid a prosecution is clear indication that there is a lot of arm-twisting going on.


    2. Dave Bell

      Nervous about Europe

      If they decide not to prosecute, their answer will have to satisfy the European system, but I really don't like the idea of the European administration forcing a prosecution. A big chunk of the system is based on the National Governments writing and enforcing their own laws to comply with an EU directive. And I doubt that other countries would like any precedent being set.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's bad ...

    ... but not that bad.

    "Simply the worst example of criminal corruption I've even witnessed in my life."

    Perspective please ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You really want perspective?

      How about this: the CPS needs an average of 9 daysm to make a decision. If this takes much longer it will be a hundred times that average or more. Sounds like corruption to me. Or incompetence. Or both.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting to compare

    The condemnation of Phorm for (allegedly) illegally intercepting comms traffic, with the defence of wikileaks for err ... encouraging the same.

    Sometimes by the same people.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Wikileaks encouraging comms interception?

      Not sure where you got that from.

      I think you'll find that Wikileaks encourages "Leaks", the clue's in the name!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: wikileaks

        I wonder what the reception would have been had some phorm/BT goon posted the results of their tests on wikileaks ..

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon


      Don't forget, we only found out about the interception for sure because someone leaked the documents.

    3. Vic

      No comparison

      > The condemnation of Phorm ... with the defence of wikileaks

      The two are unrelated.

      Wikileaks has published information. BT& Phorm have gone digging for information that is not theirs.

      The closest you will get is comparing BT's behaviour with Bradley Manning's - and, if the reports so far are accurate, Mr. Manning does indeed have some questions to answer.

      The difference is that Mr. Manning has a "public interest" defence - the information he leaked is useful to the population at large, and there is a good argument that the population has a right to see that information. But this is a defence, not a licence to leak.

      BT, on the other hand, are just money-grabbing little oiks who invaded their users' privacy for profit. They have no public interest defence.


  18. SilverWave

    BT executives must be getting a little uncomfortable eh?

    No we haven't forgotten...

  19. Anonymous Coward

    The CPS is putting the UK gov in grave danger

    of *another* breach of human rights.

    Article 8 not only requires states respect their citizens privacy, it places a POSITIVE OBLIGATION on them to protect them. It seems to me that the lack of positive action here is amounting to a breach in itself ...

    I'm just waiting for the Chinese ambassador to register his protest ....

  20. andybird123

    they're still at it

    I've been having loads of speed issues this week and when I run a traceroute I can see that all of my traffic is being diverted via network nodes operated by a company called "BareFruit"

    when you look up what this company do, they have a close relationship with BT (in that you can opt out of their service via the BT website), they offer "monetisation of DNS and HTTP errors"

    If BT have a tie in with this company I can see why some traffic would go through them, however from what I can see ALL of my traffic is being relayed through the network of a company I have no direct connection with

    which is pretty outrageous

  21. Jeff Deacon

    Apparently ...

    police officers (not the high ups) refer to this "organisation" as "Can't Prosecute Sh1t".

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Can't touch this

    The last time the CPS delayed this long was probably the Ian Tomlinson case...and we all know how that turned out.

    At the end of the day, they're completely unaccountable. The DPP, Keir Starmer, is appointed by the Attorney General and when I complained about the Tomlinson decision, and other questionable decisions, some made personally by Mr Starmer, to the Home Office, Prime Minister and Deputy PM, the first two replied that the matters raised were the responsibility of the CPS and passed my letters on to them. I hardly think they're going to chastise themselves (in fact, they haven't bothered replying either).

    The Deputy PM didn't even bother acknowledging my letter.

  23. Maty

    Dear CPS

    Let me help you.

    The law in question is called RIPA. BT and Phorm broke it. Prosecute them.

    There, that wasn't hard was it?

  24. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Just the CPS

    living up to the name the cops have for them

    Criminal Protection Squad

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit of a conflict

    I don't see much difference between BT's interception activities with Phorm and the interception activities that gov will want them & others to perform in support of IMP, when it comes. So they'd be prosecuting them one day and legalising it the next. Hence the delay - they can't work how to do it all without looking like arses.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up


      "So they'd be prosecuting them one day and legalising it the next. Hence the delay - they can't work how to do it all without looking like arses."

      This makes a lot of a sense. However Phorn and BT are now both *public* companies. Neither is part of a govt, Whatever they are now calling the Interception Modernization Programme now (did

      someone wake and realise what acronym the Government IMP made?)

      There *is* no conflict, although you can't help wondering if some senior civil servant gave Phorn or BT some "assurances" that they would not be prosecuted and we know how such people hate to break a promise to companies.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I remember right

    The CPS claimed they had, up till quite recently, spent about 5 grand looking into this case.

    By my reckoning that's the cost (to the CPS, including overhead recovery and wotnot) of about two man-weeks worth of undivided indifference.

    Over a period 800 days.

    Now there's commitment for you.

  27. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Just a thought...

    If Phorm was a front for, ooh, let me think... some American intelligence agency, all along, this sort of inexplicable delay suddenly explains itself.

  29. Sparkypatrick
    Black Helicopters

    @ Just a thought...

    Why should it be an American intelligence agency? Don't we have a few of our own? Of course, I'm sure they're above that sort of thing...

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