ENCROCHAT HACK: Supreme Court verdict could be by Xmas rapper C Montana's case hears


SEVERAL people accused of using the encrypted Encrochat mobile phone system to supply drugs and other organised crime offences should learn if they can take their challenge about the admissibility of the evidence to the Supreme Court in the next two weeks, a court heard today.

Lawyers for upcoming British rapper C Montana (pictured above in a still from a video), who has been charged under the Encrochat operation, appeared via remote link today at Snaresbrook Crown Court, in east London, for a mention hearing for his prosecution.

Montana, 31, who is being prosecuted under his real name Arlton Lewis-Turner, is awaiting a hearing where his lawyers will apply to have the application dismissed on evidential grounds.

It has been listed for next April, but the court heard the date is dependent upon what happens with the Supreme Court application and a separate challenge being made by other defendants to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

Earlier this year the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Judge Mr Justice Ian Dove who rejected a series of challenges by defence lawyers over the admissibility of Encrochat evidence.

The defence lawyers have asked the case to go to the Supreme Court and that decision is expected within the next two weeks.

RESPONCE: Jonathan Kinnear has responded to the Encrochat defendant's application to Supreme Court

Sam Barker, representing the prosecution at today's hearing for Lewis-Turner, said: "The case law is with the Supreme Court. Permission could be given this week or next week.

"Mr (Jonathan) Kinnear QC (prosecution counsel in the Encrochat challenge) has responded (to the application). Two weeks is based on the time it usually takes to respond.

"If it is going to the Supreme Court, it will be heard shortly before Christmas. There is still another hearing due at the end of February or early March before the IPT over the lawfulness of the warrant."

Lewis-Turner, from South Quay Square, Tower Hamlets, east London, was among 113 people charged by the Met Police under its strand of the Encrochat investigation, whose names were published in July 2020.

He is facing charges connected to the supply of class A drugs.

However, Lewis-Turner denies the allegations, and has launched an application to have the case dismissed on evidential grounds.

He was bailed and released from HMP Thameside late last year, as revealed by Essex News and Investigations.

He has continued to release Grime tracks including Boss is Back (watch below) in July this year.

In April 2020 Dutch and French investigators broke through the encryption of the supposedly secure Encrochat encrypted phone communication platform which was being used by around 60,000 people worldwide, including about 9,000 in the UK.

They allowed police forces across Europe, including in the UK, access to previously sent and new real time messaging between suspected organised crime groups.

It led to hundreds of raids, arrests and seizures of drugs, cash and firearms across the UK in a series of unconnected operations under the banner of the National Crime Agency's Operation Venetic.

Of the more than 1,000 people arrested as part of the wider operation, many were not found in possession of Encrochat devices, meaning several of the prosecutions, are based on remotely-obtained message evidence alone.

It has since emerged that many of those arrested were already on police radars or under surveillance before the Encrochat operation was launched.

Last year a group of defendants in a case known as Sub Zero applied to have real time evidence from the phones ruled as a "live interception" and therefore inadmissible.

They argued that as some of the messages were obtained in real time as messages were being sent, it constitutes a "live intercept," which is not admissible in British courts.

Mr Justice Dove rejected their claims and the case was sent to the Court of Appeal which backed him and that time did not allow an application to be made to the Supreme Court.

The NCA, CPS and Met Police, which charged Lewis-Turner, have refused to comment on the delays while the appeal continues.