How we fit in

There are four key levels or pillars of oversight, of which the Tribunal is one:
Authorisations: Intrusive powers should only be exercised upon the authority of a warrant or an authorisation given by a “designated person” with authority to do so.  Applications to use these powers must be scrutinised with great care, for they must be granted only if the particular power sought is in all the circumstances: (a) lawfully available; (b) necessary; and (c) proportionate.

The Commissioners: The role of the Commissioners is to provide oversight of the way in which all public authorities in the United Kingdom carry out covert surveillance. They visit relevant public authorities, interview officers who authorize covert techniques, examine paperwork and give advice as to compliance with the law. These techniques are governed by Part III of the Police Act 1997 and Parts II and III of RIPA. There are three Commissioners, all of whom are, or have been, eminent and very senior judges.

  • Interception of Communications Commissioner: responsible for keeping under review the interception of communications and the acquisition and disclosure of communications data by intelligence agencies, police forces and other public authorities. (Section 57 RIPA). The current Commissioner is the Rt. Hon. Sir Stanley Burnton.
  • The Intelligence Services Commissioner: responsible for providing independent judicial oversight of the conduct of the security and intelligence agencies (SIS, also known as MI6, Security Service (MI5), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) and a number of other public authorities (Section 59 RIPA). The current Commissioner is the Rt. Hon Sir Mark Waller.
  • Chief Surveillance Commissioner and Assistants: responsible for overseeing the conduct of covert surveillance and covert human intelligence sources (other than the security services) by public authorities. (Police Act 1997 and Sections 62 and 63 RIPA). The current Chief Commissioner is The Rt. Hon. The Lord Judge.

Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. This is a statutory Committee made up of distinguished Parliamentarians who have further responsibility for the oversight of the security and intelligence agencies  (MI5, MI6, and GCHQ) and other parts of the UK intelligence community. Their duties include overseeing the agencies’ activities, policies, expenditure, administration and operations. This Committee is currently chaired by the Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The Tribunal was established by RIPA Sections 65-69 to consider, and if necessary, investigate, any complaints made by members of the public  who believe that they have been the victim of unlawful action under RIPA, or that their rights have been breached by any unlawful activity under RIPA or wider human rights infringements in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Tribunal then decides if the complaint has been justified, making one of a number of possible Orders.
So the Investigatory Powers Tribunal is the final link in the oversight chain as it exists at present. It decides allegations of unlawful intrusion against the public authorities which include:

  •  Intelligence Services
  •  Territorial Police Forces of England, Wales, Northern Ireland & Scotland
  •  British Transport Police
  •  National Crime Agency
  •  The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
  •  The Home Office (Immigration Enforcement)
  •  Ministry of Defence Police 
  •  Royal Air Force Police 
  •  Royal Military Police 
  •  Royal Naval Police
  •  Gambling Commission
  •  Gangmasters Licensing Authority
  •  The Information Commissioner
  •  Office of Communications
  •  Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  •  Serious Fraud Office
  •  Financial Conduct Authority
  •  Prudential Regulation Authority
  •  Independent Police Complaints Commission
  •  Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  •  The Ministry of Justice - National Offender Management Service
  •  Northern Ireland Office - Northern Ireland Prison Service
  •  Criminal Cases Review Commission
  •  Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
  •  Department of Transport:
    •  Air Accident Investigation Branch
    • Marine Accident Investigation Branch
    • Rail Accident Investigation Branch
  •  Department for Transport Maritime Coastguard Agency
  •  Fire & Rescue Authorities
  •  Ambulance Services / Trusts
  •  Health & Safety Executive
  •  Department for Health - Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
  •  DWP – Child Maintenance Group
  •  Health & Social Care Business Services Organisation – 
    • Central Services Agency (Northern Ireland)
  • Office of Fair Trading / Competition and Markets Authority
  •  NHS Protect
  •  NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services
  •  The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
  •  Local Authorities

Last updated: 5 Jul 16