I thought Lauri Love had won his court case? Just over a year ago, Lauri Love won his appeal against extradition at the High Court (USA v Love). This is an entirely different case - Lauri Love v NCA - which Lauri himself has launched against the National Crime Agency.
What is Lauri trying to achieve? In October 2013, the NCA raided Lauri Love’s family home, arrested him and seized 25 items of electronic equipment. Lauri has never been charged in the UK but, nearly five and a half years later, the NCA is still holding on to three computers and two external storage devices. The NCA claim that these devices contain encrypted data.
Lauri is using the 1897 Police Property Act to have those devices returned. The 1897 Act places strict limits on the police’s ability to retain property in the absence of criminal charges. Lauri will argue that computer hardware and the data it contains should not be treated differently from any other kind of property.
Haven't I heard about this before? Quite possibly. In May 2016, Lauri Love won an important victory in a preliminary hearing for this case when the NCA’s attempt to “circumvent” legal protections for encrypted information was thrown out.
The NCA had asked for the court to order Lauri Love to hand over passwords using general case management powers. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) sets up specific procedures for authorities who want to gain access to someone’s passwords. In fact, the NCA issued a Section 49 Order against Lauri Love back in 2014, but never followed up on it.
What will happen if Lauri loses this civil case? If Lauri Love does not manage to convince the magistrate in Hendon, she will not order the NCA to return his computers.
That would be disappointing for Lauri and it has a wider significance for all those who care about encryption and the protection of sensitive data. If special rules apply for encrypted data, with police allowed to retain this material indefinitely without any checks and balances, that is likely to cause real problems in the future.
When will we have a ruling? District Judge Margot Coleman will be handing down her ruling at 10am on Tuesday 19 February at Westminster Magistrates' Court.
What has the NCA actually been doing for the past five and a half years? Good question: one year after the High Court recommended British authorities "bend their endeavours" to a UK prosecution, Lauri Love and his legal team have heard nothing from either the NCA or the Crown Prosecution Service.
It is now nearly five and a half years since Lauri Love was arrested in the UK. The long period of uncertainty is one of ongoing stress for Lauri and his family. Lauri, who holds a Finnish passport and has close family in that country, is not able to travel while his legal situation remains unclear.
It is very possible that new details about the NCA’s actions and decision-making will become public as a result of Lauri’s civil action.