back to article EncroChat hack evidence wasn't obtained illegally, High Court of England and Wales rules – trial judges will decide whether to admit it

The contents of messages from encrypted chat service EncroChat may be admissible as evidence in English criminal trials, the High Court in London, England has ruled. A legal challenge to a warrant used by the National Crime Agency for gaining access to hacked data obtained by the French and Dutch authorities has failed, …

  1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Thank you for your efforts

    And also, shame on the public servants breaking the law, and refusing to comply with it.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Thank you for your efforts

      Those civil servants didn't break the law as they didn't do anything because they couldn't do anything about it. The hacking of the server was done in France by the French police with Dutch assistance. There was evidence found on that server, which was passed to the NCA to use as the NCA saw fit.

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Thank you for your efforts

        They are not providing the information as stated by the law.

  2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Well done, El Reg

    Once again, I wish I could 'like' the article. This is the type of reporting on the kind of topic that El Reg does well, and I am very glad this is being subject to public scrutiny. Well done.

  3. cantankerous swineherd

    "The High Court itself also dragged its heels, taking a week of constant nagging to supply a copy of a reporting restriction order attached to the public judgment. Such orders are routinely supplied on request within hours instead of weeks. This level of public sector reluctance to submit to the open justice principle is noteworthy given the topic of the judicial review."

    good bit of reporting

  4. Tempest
    Thumb Up

    It's Heartening to Hear that Judges are . . .

    ruling against the Crown after decades of "accommodating" the Crown.

    Too often, in past years, Judges have favoured the Crown by "bending" or stretching the rules.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: It's Heartening to Hear that Judges are . . .

      How is this ruling against the Crown? The evidence was allowed to be used against the suspects.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's Heartening to Hear that Judges are . . .

      How much time have you spent in court listening to judges favouring (or not) the Crown? Come to that, how much time did you spend reading the article - assuming it was the same one I read?

  5. sbt

    It's important this is done openly

    ... but I can see the argument for letting evidence lead to suspects rather than always insisting investigating suspects leading to evidence. After all, where do you get your suspects from? It's a police state if you always start with the suspects and not the criminal activity.

    There's an important and fundamental difference between blanket surveillance of all comms in the hope of finding criminality and the targetting of a specific platform seemingly, openly intended for criminal use; it seems to be of the same kind as an investigation or hacking of say, child abuse sharing servers on the darkweb, leading to identifying the users and operators who would not have otherwise been under suspicion.

    Also worth noting that the individuals charged will still be able to make representations about the admissibility of the evidence adduced in their specific cases. I think they have the balance right here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's important this is done openly

      > There's an important and fundamental difference between blanket surveillance of all comms in the hope of finding criminality and the targetting of a specific platform seemingly, openly intended for criminal use

      Openly intended for criminal use according to whom? The prosecutors who have a vested interest in painting the service in as negative a light as possible, that's who!

      Wikipedia informs that EncroChat had 60,000 subscribers at the end, but the court claims only "over 1000" arrests. That sounds like an awful lot of people using the service who were not part of "organised crime gangs"!

      Did law enforcement have strong evidence that the service was "used solely as a means for organised crime gangs" (note: solely is a strong assertion!) before applying for the warrant to take over the service? Or did they just make that claim unfounded because "those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear"?

      It's not only criminals who need encrypted communications. How many political dissidents were caught up in this dragnet, I wonder?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's important this is done openly

        The Register's excellent article on this dated 2nd July 2020 claims that in the UK there were around 10,000 subscribers, and that police had made 746 arrests. If the "over 1,000" arrests referred to in (a UK) court were in the UK only, that would make the relevant subscriber figure 10,000, not the 60,000 you note.

        To which you will (correctly) reply, "What about the other 9,000?" I would agree with you that the notion that the service was solely for the use of organized crime gangs is a strong assertion to make in court. This story is likely to run and run over the next few years.

      2. sbt

        Re: Openly intended for criminal use according to whom?

        No down thumb from me; fair question. Naturally my original comment is predicated on the claim being true; It was made by both the prosecution and the NCA; no counter-claim by EncroChat or it's users was reported (perhaps for obvious reasons).

        If it's not actually true, then I would withdraw my support for this approach, just as I wouldn't support general TLA cracking of Signal, Tor, etc, since these clearly are not the means of communication of 'solely' criminal gangs.

        That said, I'm not sure the disjoint between subscribers and arrests need signify anything other than that TPTB haven't caught up with all the wrongdoers as yet. The number of reported arrests has grown by ~250 since the June report.

    2. Tom Chiverton 1

      Re: It's important this is done openly

      "difference between blanket surveillance of all comms in the hope of finding criminality and the targetting of a specific platform"

      There really isn't. It the government is prepared to do this to its enemies, its not going to be too careful who it's enemies are.

      Apropos Doctorow's Attack Surface

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's important this is done openly


        "Enemies" is the word you used. But the NSA and GCHQ are slurping EVERYTHING they can read from public channels. My guess is that criminal content is a lot less than one percent of what they slurp....the rest is content used by law abiding citizens!!


        So......AC folk like me are making sure that their messaging uses private ciphers BEFORE messages enter ANY public channel. I know, I know....private ciphers are cr*p! So....good luck to the snoopers taking a hard look at this message!!
























  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Maybe no longer a state secret, but still an invaluable weapon to be rightly feared

    Prosecutors are extremely nervous of public scrutiny of the EncroChat case in Britain and it is somewhat surprising that the judicial review judgment was published at all in light of efforts to deter reporting of it. Interestingly, the NCA appears not to have cared that foreign police were hacking Britons, with the judgment noting that the French and Dutch forces told the NCA that they were going to hoover up messages from Britons regardless of whether or not they were given permission.

    With the billions of pounds unaccounted for by UKGBNI government ministers/officials/departments in this current frenetic pandemic splurge of QE funds, such as the above must be a serious constant worry for anyone dodgy imagining they have Wilson Doctrine like protection against stealthy state snooping.

    It does appear to be something of an exclusive selfish Parliamentary confection though which I'm sure many would cry is most unfair and extremely inequitable, if we're all supposed to be treated as equals and in this together ......

    Since it was established, the development of new forms of communication, such as mobile phones and email, has led to extensions of the doctrine. However, it was never extended to cover members of the new devolved legislatures.

  7. jake Silver badge


    Thanks for the update, ElReg.

  8. MiguelC Silver badge

    "(...)something that tends to show the NCA was bang on the money when it sidelined legal process in favour of getting wrong’uns banged up for many years."

    So, the ends justify the means?

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      I was just about to post the same thing. Utilitarianism/consequentialism is coming back into fashion, obviously.

  9. Cliff Thorburn

    Great game shenanigans ...

    Certainly a lot more to the ‘Hacking Britons’ than meets the eye in this story, obviously the psychological torture of Britons in the name of ‘The Great Game’ psy-ops multi corporation funded experimentation sp00ky projects will also be omitted in a ‘nothing to see here’ everything and everywhere manner will IT not?

  10. Cliff Thorburn

    Wonder if any justice will come for the Gaslighting of great game victims over the past decade will ever happen?

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