Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Law that Targets Only the Innocent

Via Longrider I read that 19 year old Oliver Drage has been sent to prison for 16 weeks for refusing to give police his 50-character password. He was found guilty under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This strikes me as a law that can ONLY target the innocent.

The aim of the law is to coerce people into allowing police to examine their files so that they can determine whether a real crime has been committed. Now, either the files contain incriminating evidence or they do not. If they do then as Longrider puts it:
maybe he weighed up the odds and decided to take the hit for non-compliance as opposed to providing the Bill with evidence of sexual misdeeds, eh?
RIPA has no coercive power over the guilty because the prison sentence for non-compliance of RIPA will always be less than for the crime he is suspected of. The innocent on the other hand can be coerced.

You might argue that without RIPA the guilty guy gets away scot-free. True, but the law fails do achieve its aim. It can, in fact, never achieve its aim. So the argument becomes akin to suggesting that we lock up all people suspected of a crime (regardless of whether we can prove they are guilty) because otherwise some guilty people will get away.


  1. What it teaches you is that you have to lie to protect your life. l wrote on Longriders about how l forgot a passphrase because l put it on a memory stick whilst having an evening with Jack Daniels.

    For a computer simply say 'l changed the passphrase last night whilst l was intoxicated and now l can't remember what it is'

    Would they still put you in prison because you got drunk and can't remember a passphrase?

    lt is true that Drage may have been hiding those particular files that the police thought he had which could have incriminated him. lt is also true that he may be hiding something extremely personal such as being gay, tranvestite or having an affair with someones wife and has pictures or anything else. A computer is an extension of our mind and so can very very personal, the content of which could damage one's life forever.

  2. Quite right. Or worse still he might be hiding an incest fetish which is apparently evidence of paedophilia!