Planned Espionage Act would "silence whistle-blowers and gag our press"

13 February 2017

The Law Commission has proposed that the maximum prison sentence for whistleblowers should be raised and the definition of espionage should be expanded to include obtaining sensitive information, as well as passing it on - and has claimed that groups including Liberty were consulted on the plans.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “It’s disturbing that the Law Commission considers a single meeting adequate consultation to inform such drastic and dangerous proposals. We don’t – and we will be submitting a thorough response to the public consultation.

“These oppressive plans have no place in a democracy. They would skew the balance even further in favour of state secrecy, irrespective of potentially profound public interest. By increasing the prospect of prosecutions for revelations that are merely embarrassing or inconvenient, they would silence whistle-blowers and gag our press.

“This is the latest hypocritical move from a Government intent on operating in the shadows while monitoring every move the rest of us make. When the agencies’ illegal mass surveillance was exposed by Snowden’s courageous actions, this Government responded with the eye-wateringly authoritarian Investigatory Powers Act. That law makes it illegal to disclose even the mere existence of warrants to intercept people’s communications, meaning those who are unlawfully spied on, including journalists, will never know about it – unless whistle-blowers come forward.”