Limitations and Remedies

The Tribunal may investigate RIPA claims that fall within its jurisdiction. It cannot, however, consider complaints against public authorities which are subject to other complaints mechanisms and oversight. The Tribunal cannot therefore consider complaints regarding the conduct of the Police or NCA which does not relate to activities referred to in the statute. These would be for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (in England and Wales), Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland or Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland.[LINK direct to websites of these organisations]

The Tribunal has no jurisdiction to investigate complaints about private individuals or companies unless the complainant believes they are acting on behalf of an intelligence agency, law enforcement body or other public authority covered by RIPA.

Human Rights Act Claims

Under RIPA, claims the Tribunal can investigate solely under the Human Rights Act are limited to the following organisations:

Any of the Intelligence Services (SIAs)
Any of Her Majesty’s forces
Any UK police force
The National Crime Agency (NCA)
The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency
The Commissioner for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs

The Tribunal will consider if any of these organisations has breached a complainant’s human rights as a result of any conduct they may have carried out, which falls under RIPA. In the case of R (on the application of A) (Appellant) v B (Respondent) [2009] UKSC 12 the Supreme Court ruled that the Tribunal holds exclusive jurisdiction in Human Rights Act claims against the SIAs.

If a complainant’s Human Rights claim is about any other organisation, the Tribunal will not be the appropriate place to make such a claim, and we would advise any such claimant to seek legal advice.


The Tribunal can consider complaints from anyone who thinks they may have been subject to interception by public authorities under RIPA.

The intentional interception of communications without lawful authority is a criminal offence and therefore a matter for the police and prosecuting authorities. Under the RIPA 'Monetary Penalty Notice Regulations', which came into force on 16 June 2011, unintentional electronic interception, which does not relate to trying to put into effect an interception warrant, is now the responsibility of the Interception of Communications Commissioner. He alone can investigate a complaint, and if appropriate, exact a monetary penalty where this is appropriate.

Time Limit

The Tribunal is not obliged to investigate conduct which occurred more than one year prior to the submission of the complaint. If a complainant would like the Tribunal to consider a complaint of conduct that happened outside this timescale, they must provide an explanation for the delay in submitting their complaint. The Tribunal can only consider such complaints if it considers it fair and reasonable to do so. The Tribunal will therefore consider the explanation along with the details of the complaint, and make a decision on whether it should be accepted and investigated, and for what period.

Employment Related Surveillance

In the case of C v The Police (IPT/03/32) the Tribunal determined that employers investigating members of their staff who were suspected of misconduct does not fall to the Tribunal to consider, even if that employer has RIPA powers. The Tribunal cannot consider this type of complaint, but that does not mean that covert surveillance activities by employers is unregulated by law. If for example, someone who works in the private sector believes that he or she has been the subject of surveillance by a private investigator at the instigation of his or her employer, this is not something the Tribunal can consider; but if the conduct engages Article 8 (right to respect for private or family life), or breaches some other specific statutory requirement, common law or contract, it can be challenged in the ordinary courts.


The Tribunal has at its disposal a range of possible remedies, as wide as those available to an ordinary court which is hearing and deciding an ordinary action for the infringement of private law rights. However, unlike Rule 10 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-Tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber Rules 2009 (SI No.1976 [LINK to this SI]), there is no express power to award costs in Section 67(7) of RIPA, nor in the Rules. The Tribunal has only awarded costs on one occasion: see Chatwani & Others v the National Crime Agency in Chapter 5.

Apart from compensation, other orders that may be made by the Tribunal include -

  • An order quashing or cancelling any warrant or authorisation; and
  • An order requiring the destruction of any records of information which (i) have been obtained in exercise of any power conferred by a warrant or authorisation; or (ii) are held by any public authority in relation to any person.


Last updated: 5 Jul 16