Investigatory Powers Tribunal

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In the United Kingdom, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) is a judicial body, independent of the British government, which hears complaints about surveillance by public bodies—in fact, "the only Tribunal to whom complaints about the Intelligence Services can be directed".[1]

History[edit]

It was established in 2000 by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and replaced the Interception of Communications Tribunal, the Security Service Tribunal, and the Intelligence Services Tribunal.

The IPT does not disclose its address; it uses a PO Box in Nine Elms, London, close to the Secret Intelligence Building. Its website was created in 2003 by Tricorn Media, which has worked extensively for the police and Home Office.[2][3] The IPT and its shortcomings were discussed in a BBC Radio 4 File on 4 programme.[4]

Jurisdiction[edit]

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to consider complaints about the use of surveillance by any organisation with powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It is also the only judicial body with the power to investigate the conduct of the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).[5][6]

Organisations under the IPT's jurisdiction must provide details to the IPT of any activity that is being complained about.[7] The IPT will only decide whether any surveillance that is being carried out is lawful—i.e., that it has been appropriately authorised and is being conducted in accordance with the applicable rules. If it investigates a complaint and finds that surveillance is being carried out but is lawful, it will not confirm to the complainant that they are under surveillance, merely state that their complaint has not been upheld. The IPT is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act 2000 so information made available to it in the course of considering a complaint cannot be obtained under a freedom of information request.[8][9]

Complaints may be dealt with on paper or by oral hearing, at the IPT's discretion.[7]

A complaint about surveillance being conducted by a private person or a company cannot be heard by the IPT.[8]

Members[edit]

The IPT's ten members are appointed by the Queen for five-year terms, after which they may "stand down or declare themselves available for reappointment".[10] The President and Vice President must both hold or have previously held senior judicial posts. The current President is Michael Burton, a member of the High Court of England and Wales, who was Vice President of the IPT since its inception in 2000 before being appointed as President in October 2013.[11] All the other members must be experienced barristers or solicitors.[12]

As of July 2014, they are:[10]

  • President, Mr Justice Michael Burton
  • Vice President, Mr Justice Philip Sales
  • Mr Robert Seabrook QC
  • Sir Anthony Holland
  • Ms Susan O’Brien QC
  • Mr Charles Flint QC
  • The Hon. Christopher Gardner QC
  • Professor Graham Zellick CBE QC
  • His Honour Geoffrey Rivlin QC
  • Mrs Justice Sue Carr

Cases[edit]

Only select IPT rulings are published. Statistics concerning complaints dealt with by the IPT are published each year in the Annual Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner. Those statistics shows that very few complaints about surveillance have been upheld; from 2000 to 2009, five out of at least 956 complaints have been upheld, as shown in the table below.

Bar chart showing IPT Complaints 2001-2008
IPT Complaints vs Complaints Upheld 2001-2008
Year Total complaints Complaints upheld Source
2000/01 102 0 [13]
2002 130 0 [14]
2003 109 0 [15]
2004 90 0 [16]
2005 80 1 [17]
2006 86 0 [18]
2007 66 0 [19]
2008 136 2 [20]
2009 157 1 [21]
2010 164 6 [22]
2011 180 0 [23]
2012 168 - [24]
Total 1,468 10

One of the IPT's few published rulings concerns the high-profile case of a family who were placed under surveillance by Poole Borough Council in order to investigate claims that the family were not living in the school catchment area which they claimed. The IPT ruled that the use of covert surveillance by the Council was not appropriate.[25][26]

In 2010, the IPT produced an annual report for the first time. The report provided statistics relating to the outcomes of complaints. It was stated that 210 complaints were considered in 2010 (including some carried over from the previous year) but 105 (50%) of these cases were inadmissible and were not investigated. This includes cases which were withdrawn, malformed, out of time, out of jurisdiction or, most commonly, "frivolous or vexatious". 65 cases were considered by the IPT to be frivolous or vexatious—generally either obviously unsustainable or repeats of previous complaints.[27]

In 2012, the IPT provided statistics relating to the number of new complaints received and those considered over the course of the year, but did not not specify whether any had been upheld.[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What the Tribunal can investigate". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  2. ^ http://www.tricornmedia.com
  3. ^ http://www.whois.com/whois/ipt-uk.com
  4. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03bdsyk
  5. ^ "What the Tribunal can investigate". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "Section 65(2)(a) and 65(3)(a) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Procedures". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "Limitations". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "FAQ: Will the Tribunal tell me if my phone has been intercepted?". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "Structure of the Tribunal". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. 6 July 2014. 
  11. ^ "Mr Justice Burton (President)". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "Structure of the Tribunal". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  13. ^ Thomas, Swinton. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2000-2001". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  14. ^ Thomas, Swinton. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2002". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  15. ^ Thomas, Swinton. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2003". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  16. ^ Thomas, Swinton. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2004". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  17. ^ Thomas, Swinton. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2005-2006". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  18. ^ Kennedy, Paul. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2006". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  19. ^ Kennedy, Paul. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2007". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  20. ^ Kennedy, Paul. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2008". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  21. ^ Kennedy, Paul. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2009". Interception of Communications Commissioner. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  22. ^ Kennedy, Paul. "Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2010". Interception of Communications Commissioner. 
  23. ^ "Investigatory Powers Tribunal Statistical Report for 2011". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. 
  24. ^ "Investigatory Powers Tribunal report for 2012". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "Paton v Poole Borough Council, IPT/09/01-05/C". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  26. ^ "Poole council loses school catchment 'spying' tribunal". BBC News. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  27. ^ http://www.ipt-uk.com/docs/IPTAnnualReportFINAL.PDF
  28. ^ http://ipt-uk.com/sections.asp?pageID=83&sectionID=18&type=news