MPs have voted to fast-track the government’s emergency Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (Drip) Bill, despite criticism from legal academics that the legislation breaches European law.The emergency surveillance bill was yesterday granted fast-track approval in the Commons by 436 votes to 49.The legislation is a response to a European Court of Justice ruling in April that the current retention of data by communications service providers for law enforcement purposes breached article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees respect for private life.In an open letter to the Commons, 15 experts legal experts in technology law voiced their concern.The academics, including a number of legal experts such as Julia Powles, researcher in law and technology at the University of Cambridge and Lorna Woods, professor of internet law at the University of Essex, said the bill extends surveillance powers ‘considerably’.Mass data retention by the UK falls within the scope of EU law, under the EU’s privacy Directive (Article 15, Directive 2002/5) and as such the proposed bill may breach EU law, ‘as mass surveillance still falls foul of the criteria set out by the Court of Justice in the Digital Rights and Seitlinger judgment’, said the letter.Martyn Thomas from the Institution of Engineering and Technology said: ‘Hasty legislation has often proved to be badly flawed. The government has not yet published the detail of the proposed bill, so it’s important to make sure that the draft bill is examined and debated in detail before legislation is passed.’Last week Law Society president Andrew Caplen said the legislation did nothing to enhance the rule of law ‘or address the fact that we are increasingly becoming a surveillance society’.
The Serious Fraud Office has charged Barclays and four of its former executives with conspiracy to commit fraud. The charges, which also include the provision of unlawful financial assistance, were announced today. They relate to fundraising arrangements by the bank during the financial crisis in 2008 when it raised billions of pounds from Qatar to stay afloat. According to the SFO, the charges concern Barclays’s capital raising arrangements with sovereign wealth fund Qatar Holding LLC and Challenger Universal Ltd as well as a $3 billion (£2.3bn) loan facility made available to the State of Qatar acting through the Ministry of Economy and Finance in 2008.Former chief executive John Varley is among the charged as well as senior executives Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris and Richard Boath.Barclays plc, Varley, Jenkins, Kalaris and Boath have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in relation to capital raising in June 2008.In addition, Barclays, Varley and Jenkins have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in relation to capital raising in October 2008 as well as with unlawful financial assistance.Jenkins, who is now based in the US, is being represented by Brad Kaufman, of international firm Greenberg Traurig.Barclays said it is ‘considering its position’ in relation to the developments.The defendants are scheduled to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court at on 3 July.The high-profile announcement of charges follows a five-year investigation. It comes as the SFO faces an uncertain future following the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge for a merger with the National Crime Agency. In a statement, City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority said: ‘We are pleased that this matter, which led to the stay of our own case, is now in the public domain. We welcome a fair and transparent hearing on the basis of the charges set out today by the SFO. We work closely with the SFO across a range of matters, in pursuit of our distinct objectives.’However some legal commentators questioned what purpose the charges would serve. Jonathan Pickworth, partner at global law firm White & Case, told the Gazette that the charges will only harm existing shareholders and employees of the bank. ’Why is it in the public interest to prosecute the bank for its fundraising efforts almost a decade ago? Who does it punish and what purpose does it serve? All the former management team moved on many years ago,’ he said.Raj Chada, criminal defence solicitor at London firm Hodge Jones & Allen said: ‘There has long been a clamour for individuals at banks to be held accountable for the casino banking that led to the crash and the taxpayer bailouts. The irony here is that this prosecution has nothing to do with behaviour that caused the crash but related instead to the terms of a bail out. Even more strange is that Barclays have found themselves in this mess as they eschewed a UK government bailout and went to Qatar instead.‘No doubt questions will be asked about whether a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) could have been considered in this case rather than a prosecution starting. The SFO have previously made clear that full cooperation is a key and it is not known what the position with Barclays was. Any fine for Barclays could be in the hundreds of millions.’