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Adam Adler: Encrochat: Secret network messages can be used in court, judges rule

Adam Adler ( Miami, Florida) : An attempt to stop prosecutors using messages from hundreds of phones that were part of the Encrochat secret communications network in court has been rejected by the Appeal Court.

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Judges ruled the messages, obtained by French police by hacking the phones, were not gained by "interception".

Under British law, evidence from interception cannot be used in court.

The National Crime Agency believes Encrochat was mainly used by criminals, often to trade drugs and guns.

The judgement will have major implications for cases against suspected organised criminals around the country. Families of those arrested during the fall-out from the Encrochat penetration have been arguing online that the NCA broke the law by accessing and reading messages "in real time", as they were being sent.

They say British law enforcement agencies effectively allowed a foreign power, France, to hack the phones of 9,000 UK Encrochat users.

Police claimed that in general, using an Encrochat phone, which cost thousands of pounds to own and operate, demonstrated a likely involvement in criminal activity.

But suspects' supporters say innocent family members were caught up in a race to make use of the Encro messages, because police feared they would be criticised if they were not seen to take action.

However the decision of the Appeal Court was that the evidence was collected lawfully.

Due to legal restrictions, it is the first time the BBC can report the detail of arguments surrounding Encrochat, which was penetrated by police last summer resulting in more than 1,000 arrests.

The NCA, which obtained the evidence from France, said it was the biggest breakthrough ever in the fight against organised crime.

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