back to article UK Court of Appeal rebukes Home Office for exceeding its powers with bunkum 'national security' GSM gateway ban

The Home Office cannot order Ofcom to ignore its legal duties even when a government minister wants to shut something down because of unspecified "national security" concerns, the Court of Appeal has said, ruling that ministers acted outside their legal powers when banning GSM gateways. The judgment ends a drawn-out saga that …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The Home Office doesn't seem to have had a lot of luck over the last several decades.

    1. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

      It's the fault of those pesky europeans!

      1. W.S.Gosset

        "Username checks out."

  2. cantankerous swineherd

    rutnam the guy who pritinasty bullied?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is the large lady warming her vocal chords?

    She may start singing soon, unless the low-life government mandarins try further delaying tactics.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Is the large lady warming her vocal chords?

      I believe Philip Ruttnam has already made his views known regarding vocal generosity by the large lady.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is the large lady warming her vocal chords?

      In January 2021 the Home Office reportedly made an application to the Supreme Court seeking leave to appeal. January 2022 we're now told that the Home Office has been granted leave to appeal by the Supreme Court. Perhaps an indication of an ever desperate UK Government to avoid further scrutiny by Parliament, preventing "mere mortals" from knowing the machinations of former ministers, secretaries of state and senior civil servants. More delays.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    The Home Office is expected to make a statement this afternoon.

    Maybe using one bad of bad news to cover another? Sir Humphrey would be very proud.

  5. Mage
    Black Helicopters

    Never about security

    It was about protecting Revenue of Ofcom's Mobile friends and thus Treasury income. But you knew that.

    Ofcom and Comreg pay lip service to Spectrum management, Consumers etc. See Ofcom submissions on Roaming charges. They get most of their income from Mobile and make massive income for Treasury. Captured regulators.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's always the terrorism excuse. Want to ban something? It aids terrorists. Want to push a new invasion of privacy? It helps in the fight against terrorism.

    They'll add public health to the roster after this year. Want to ban something? It's a health crisis. Stay in your homes.

    Any excuse to pry and peek, and control every formerly private moment.

    It's all so tedious.

  8. YetAnotherJoeBlow

    They forgot...

    They forgot to add in the pedophiles with the terrorists.

    1. Gordon 10

      Re: They forgot...

      They add that as part of the final appeal.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Threat to National Security?

    Once again the Home Office, after the Court of Appeal judgment is handed down, says that the operation of commercial multi-user gateways threatens our national security. Ofcom's own CLI guidelines do NOT require CLI to be a legal prerequisite.

    David Anderson QC in his 2016 report, Investigatory Powers for the Government, presented to the Government makes no mention of GSM Gateways as a security threat.

    Why was Philip Rutnam involved?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh no

    It makes it hard to trace people.

    So is smashing my mobile phone and disappearing into the wilderness with no traceable tech on me illegal as well then?

    1. fix

      Re: oh no

      A pastime that's becoming increasingly attractive, glad I have a 90's bike with very little in the way of electronics to make the journey on.

  11. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

    I used to use COMUGs* back in the early 2000s for talking to to colleagues overseas and the not-yet-Mrs IP in the early days of our courtship. They saved me a fortune on the hugely inflated standard prices. I didn't know why they suddenly disappeared until this litigation started. Can't blame the Tory party for this one, though - it was on New Labour's** watch.

    ** Tories with a red rosette.

    * I had more than one in my address book because they weren't always reliable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think you'll find

      It's a case of, it doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always wins.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think you'll find

        Party in power may change, but fortunately there is a permanent secretary to ensure that nothing disrupts normal operations.

        In the USA it would be called the "deep state", wouldn't it?

  12. ForthIsNotDead

    "We have been clear that the operation of commercial multi-user gateways can have the impact of masking the identities of suspected terrorists and criminals which threatens our national security." ®

    So, explain WhatsApp, or Tor?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seem to remember them making similar arguments about being able to have untraced comms when the CB radio legalisation arguments were going on back in the 70s/80s. Good job nobody ever told them about public phone boxes!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just send Priti over to the Ofcom office...

    ... she'll bang some heads together (literally) so that HMG gets its way.

    Dame Melanie Dawes (wearing heavy make up and sunglasses: "Sorry we won't do it again. It was all our fault. Sorry. Please don't be angry, Priti, please..."

  15. Spanners Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Will this mean

    we now get those services again? Or has technology overtaken them and I can now talk to faraway relatives using anything from Whatsapp and FB Messenger to Teams and Telegram for very marginal rates?

  16. flayman Bronze badge

    "We have been clear that the operation of commercial multi-user gateways can have the impact of masking the identities of suspected terrorists and criminals which threatens our national security."

    Then legislate! 80 seat frigging majority.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Retrospective legislation?

      1. Warm Braw

        While we're part of the ECHR, it wouldn't fly for the criminal offence - but if it's such a big deal, presumably bringing in legislation would be a cheaper and more certain way of dealing with it in future.

        Retrospective legislation on taxation is actually quite common, particularly to close perceived loopholes.

        1. Bliar003

          It wouldn't fly anyway in British courts regardless of the ECHR.

    2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      80 seat frigging majority

      Yeah, but it's not really. The Tories in the shires want you to keep your hands off their wealth (housing and pensions). The Tories in the 'red wall' want some of that wealth to go to their brexit buddies in the towns -- 'see, if you vote Tory you get free handouts.'

      Alas the free handouts have gone. The bribes of the 80s (cheap council houses) have been sold, and everyone's got their profit. The only way you can give new money to the new Tory voters is to take it from the old ones.

      Any money they could 'borrow' to give as gifts has been taken up by Covid. Opps!

      Someone's going to be pissed off.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We note the Court of Appeal’s conclusion and are considering it.

    "We have been clear that the operation of commercial multi-user gateways can have the impact of masking the identities of suspected terrorists and criminals which threatens our national security."

    Translation: "We know that we lost the court case and it's been proved that legally we were in the wrong...but we're still right."

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Permanent Secretary

    The personal involvement of the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, given his previous career record, has caused many questions. No answers have been given.

    I wonder if the reason is National Security?

  19. Tachisme

    What's the commercial imperative behind this case?

    What's the commercial imperative behind this case - i.e. why is it still being progressed so many years later?

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Duplicitous Government activity?

    Cynical Government actions perhaps. It's been alleged that in addition to many multi-national commercial organisations using GSM Gateways, various Government departments including the Scottish Office, the Deputy Prime Minister's office, several NHS Trusts, Fire Departments, Police Forces and other similar bodies were accessing these services to reduce costs in order to maximise the tax-payer funded budgets.

    If the "National Security" threat has been shown to be bunkum, then why are the Home Office and Ofcom seeking to curtail free-market competitive services? No similar ban exists in Europe. Is there another commercial reason for such draconian measures utilised, but being hidden behind the red herring of "National Security"? Maybe Sir Philip Rutnam knows the answer.

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