Considering the criminal uses of encryption, it has been asserted that
national security and law enforcement endeavours must not be frustrated by potential evidence being hidden through digital encryption while the encryption key is withheld. The facilitation of state access to encryption keys through the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA 2000’) was intended to address precisely such a danger. However, since this statute’s enactment there have been significant shifts in law and
policy relating to terrorism and child pornography as well as important technological developments. This article critically examines changes to the RIPA 2000 encryption provisions made by the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Policing and Crime Act 2009. It also considers emerging statistical data and cases including R v S(F) . It concludes that the underlying premises of the revised provisions are flawed, the provisions themselves ineffectual in practice and in the longer term potentially open to ‘mission creep’ to cover lesser offences.