Convictions may be quashed
The move comes as defence lawyers are bringing a series of separate legal challenges over the admissibility of EncroChat in criminal proceedings.
Thomas Schofield, a criminal barrister at No.5 Barristers’ Chambers, told Computer Weekly that if EncroChat was found inadmissible dozens of people convicted of the most serious offences solely on the basis of EncroChat evidence were likely to seek to have their cases overturned through the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
“There remain serious questions over the way in which EncroChat evidence was obtained and there is a real possibility that it will ultimately be found to be inadmissible as evidence in the UK,” he said.
Police seized nearly €900m following three years of investigation after the French Gendarmerie infiltrated and collected 115 million messages and photos from the EncroChat network in 2020.
In the UK, more than 1,240 offenders have been convicted and police have recovered more than 173 firearms and over nine tonnes of heroin and cocaine. As of August 2023, police had charged more than 2,000 suspects identified by the National Crime Agency’s response to EncroChat – Operation Venetic.
The novel hacking operation has led to multiple legal challenges in the UK and overseas as defence lawyers question whether the evidence obtained from EncroChat phones is legally admissible in criminal prosecutions.
The IPT refused defence lawyers permission to appeal against its ruling that the NCA had lawfully obtained surveillance warrants, in a decision on 19 September 2023.
Defence lawyers representing 11 defendants are now seeking leave to appeal the ruling directly from the Court of Appeal.
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