UK Man Jailed For Refusing To Decrypt His Files

from the right-against-self-incrimination dept

Two years ago, a US judge ruled that a guy with an encrypted hard drive did not have to hand over his encryption key to the police, as it would be a violation of the 5th Amendment (the right not to self-incriminate). The argument there is that the encryption key is a form of "speech." This is quite a reasonable ruling -- but it appears that over in the UK they view encryption keys quite differently. Last year, we wrote about a UK court ruling interpreting the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to mean that people could be required to hand over encryption keys, since encryption keys were not "speech" but an object that could be demanded. Unfortunately, this has now resulted in a schizophrenic man being jailed for refusing to decrypt his files. As many are noting, this seems to be an abuse of law enforcement, as the purpose of the RIPA law was supposed to be about stopping organized crime and terrorism, not dumping the mentally ill in prison.

Filed Under: crime, decryption, uk


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    The eejit (profile), 3 Dec 2009 @ 5:30am

    The main issue, as I see it, is that this a a very bad case of unintended consquences from a very bad ly written law.

    RIPA was MEANT for use in counter-terrorism. This man was suspected of being either a terrorist or a drug-maker. I'm not defending the law here, what I'm arguing is that the circumstances made people suspicious and his refusal to self-'incriminate' were more protests.

    What staggered me more was that the prosecution case made no mention of his schizophrenia, which would make it far more difficult to recall all the keys required.

    Now an interesting legal debate would be 'What if your commercial encryption had the erase failsafe, and you gave the police THAT key instead of the correct key when demanded?'

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