Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

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"RIPA" redirects here. For other uses, see RIPA (disambiguation).
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Long title
Chapter 2000 c.23
Dates
Royal Assent 28 July 2000
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (c.23) (RIP or RIPA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, regulating the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, and covering the interception of communications. It was ostensibly introduced to take account of technological change such as the growth of the Internet and strong encryption.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 9 February 2000 and completed its Parliamentary passage on 26 July.

Following a public consultation and Parliamentary debate, Parliament approved new additions in December 2003, April 2005, July 2006 and February 2010.[1]

Summary[edit]

RIPA regulates the manner in which certain public bodies may conduct surveillance and access a person's electronic communications. The Act:

  • enables certain public bodies to demand that an ISP provide access to a customer's communications in secret;
  • enables mass surveillance of communications in transit;
  • enables certain public bodies to demand ISPs fit equipment to facilitate surveillance;
  • enables certain public bodies to demand that someone hand over keys to protected information;
  • allows certain public bodies to monitor people's Internet activities;
  • prevents the existence of interception warrants and any data collected with them from being revealed in court.

Powers[edit]

Type Typical use Reasons for use Type of public authority permitted to use Level of authorisation required
Interception of a communication Wire taps and reading post In the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime and for the purpose of safeguarding the economic well-being of the United Kingdom Defence Intelligence, GCHQ, HM Revenue and Customs, Secret Intelligence Service, Security Service and territorial police forces of Scotland Warrant from Home Secretary or Cabinet Secretary for Justice
Use of communications data Information about a communication, but not the content of that communication (phone numbers, subscriber details) In the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder, in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, in the interests of public safety, for the purpose of protecting public health, for the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department and for the purpose, in an emergency, of preventing death or injury or any damage to a person’s physical or mental health, or of mitigating any injury or damage to a person’s physical or mental health. As listed below Senior member of that authority
Directed surveillance Following people In the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder, in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, in the interests of public safety, for the purpose of protecting public health and for the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department. As listed below Senior member of that authority
Covert human intelligence sources Informers In the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder, in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, in the interests of public safety, for the purpose of protecting public health and for the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department. As listed below Senior member of that authority
Intrusive surveillance Bugging houses/vehicles In the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime and in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom. GCHQ, Secret Intelligence Service, Security Service, Ministry of Defence, armed forces, Her Majesty's Prison Service or Northern Ireland Prison Service. Authorisation from Home Secretary or Cabinet Secretary for Justice
The territorial police forces, the Ministry of Defence Police, the British Transport Police, the Royal Navy Regulating Branch, Royal Military Police, Royal Air Force Police and HM Revenue and Customs. Authorisation from the head of the relevant agency: chief constable of any of the territorial police forces, the Ministry of Defence Police or the British Transport Police, the Provost Marshals of the Royal Navy Regulating Branch, Royal Military Police or the Royal Air Force Police and any customs officer designated for the purposes by the Commissioners of Revenue and Customs.

Agencies with investigative powers[edit]

Communications data[edit]

The type of communications data that can be accessed varies with the reason for its use, and cannot be adequately explained here. Refer to the legislation for more specific information.

Directed surveillance & covert human intelligence sources[edit]

The reasons for which the use of directed surveillance & covert human intelligence sources is permitted vary with each authority. Refer to the legislation for more specific information.

Directed surveillance[edit]

The reasons for which the use of directed surveillance is permitted vary with each authority. Refer to the legislation for more specific information.

Controversy[edit]

Critics claim that the spectres of terrorism, internet crime and paedophilia were used to push the act through and that there was little substantive debate in the House of Commons. The act has numerous critics, many of whom regard the RIPA regulations as excessive and a threat to civil liberties in the UK. Campaign group Big Brother Watch published a report in 2010 investigating the improper use of RIPA by local councils.[2] Critics such as Keith Vaz, the chairman of the House of Commons home affairs committee, have expressed concern that the act is being abused for "petty and vindictive" cases.[3] Similarly, Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South has urged councils to stop using the law, accusing them of acting like comic strip detective Dick Tracy.[4]

The Trading Standards Institute has been very critical of these views, stating that the use of surveillance is critical to their success.TSI press release

It has been suggested[who?] that the "deniable encryption" features in free software such as FreeOTFE, TrueCrypt and BestCrypt will make the task of investigations featuring RIPA much more difficult.

Another concern is that the Act requires sufficiently large UK Internet Service Providers to install technical systems to assist law enforcement agencies with interception activity. Although this equipment must be installed at the ISPs' expense, RIPA does provide that Parliament will examine appropriate funding for ISPs if the cost burden became unfairly high.

Accusations of oppressive use[edit]

In April 2008, it became known that council officials in Poole put three children and their parents under surveillance, governed by RIPA, at home and in their daily movements to check whether they lived in a particular school catchment area.[5][6] Council officials carried out directed surveillance on the family a total of 21 times.[7] This was in the context of rules which allow people who live in the school catchment area to enjoy advantages in obtaining a place at a popular school. The same council put fishermen under covert surveillance to check for the illegal harvesting of cockles and clams[8] in ways that are regulated by RIPA. Other councils in the UK have conducted undercover operations regulated by RIPA against dog fouling and fly-tipping.[3] David Smith, deputy commissioner at the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) stated that he was concerned about the surveillance which took place in Poole.[9]

Despite claims in the press that local councils are conducting over a thousand RIPA-based covert surveillance operations every month for petty offences such as under-age smoking and breaches of planning regulations,[3] the Office of Surveillance Commissioners' last report shows that public bodies granted 8,477 requests for Directed Surveillance, down over 1,400 on the previous year. Less than half of those were granted by Local Authorities, and the commissioner reported that, "Generally speaking, local authorities use their powers sparingly with over half of them granting five or fewer authorisations for directed surveillance. Some sixteen per cent granted none at all."[10]

In June 2008, the chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Simon Milton, sent out a letter to the leaders of every council in England, urging local governments not to use the new powers granted by RIPA "for trivial matters", and suggested "reviewing these powers annually by an appropriate scrutiny committee".[11]

Especially contentious was Part III of the Act, which requires persons to supply decrypted information (which had been previously encrypted by the owner) and/or the cryptographic key to government representatives. Failure to disclose these items is a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of two years in jail. Using the mechanism of secondary legislation, some parts of the Act required activation by a ministerial order before attaining legal force. Such orders have been made in respect of the relevant sections of Part I and Part II of the RIP Act and Part III. The latter became active in October 2007.[12] The first case where the powers were used was against animal rights activists in November 2007.[13]

Identification of Journalists' Sources[edit]

In October 2014, it was revealed that RIPA had been used by UK police forces to obtain information about journalists' sources in at least two cases. These related to the so-called Plebgate inquiry and the prosecution of Chris Huhne for perversion of the course of justice. In both cases, journalists’ telephone records were obtained using the powers of the act in order to identify their sources, bypassing the usual court proceedings needed to obtain such information.[14]

The UK newspaper The Sun made an official written complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal to seek a public review of the London Metropolitan Police’s use of anti-terror laws to obtain the phone records of Tom Newton Dunn, its political editor, in relation to its inquiry into the “Plebgate” affair. The Sun’s complaint coincided with confirmation that the phone records of the news editor of the Mail on Sunday and one of its freelance journalists had also been obtained by Kent police force when they investigated Chris Huhne’s speeding fraud.[14] Journalists' sources are usually agreed to be privileged and protected from disclosure under European laws with which the UK complies. However, by using RIPA an investigating office just needs approval from a senior officer rather than the formal approval of a court hearing. Media lawyers and press freedom groups are concerned by the use of RIPA because it happens in secret and the press have no way of knowing whether their sources have been compromised.[14] Responding to The Sun's complaint Sir Paul Kennedy, the interception of communications commissioner, launched a full inquiry and urged Home Office ministers to accelerate the introduction of promised protections for journalists, lawyers and others who handle privileged information, including confidential helplines, from such police surveillance operations. He said: “I fully understand and share the concerns raised by the protection of journalistic sources so as to enable a free press. Today I have written to all chief constables and directed them under section 58 (1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to provide me with full details of all investigations that have used Ripa powers to acquire communications data to identify journalistic sources. My office will undertake a full inquiry into these matters and report our findings to the prime minister.”[15]

On 12 October 2014, the justice minister, Simon Hughes, confirmed on Sky News’s Murnaghan programme that the UK government will reform RIPA to prevent the police using surveillance powers to discover journalists’ sources. He said that the police’s use of RIPA’s powers had been “entirely inappropriate” and in future the authorisation of a judge would be needed for police forces to be given approval to access journalists’ phone records in pursuit of a criminal investigation. The presumption would be that if a journalist was acting in the public interest, they would be protected, he added. Hughes further said that if the police made an application to a court he would assume a journalist would be informed that the authorities were seeking to access his phone records. More than 100,000 RIPA requests are made every year for access to communications data against targets including private citizens. It is not known how many have involved journalists’ phones.[16]

Prosecutions under the RIPA[edit]

A number of offences have been prosecuted involving the abuse of investigatory powers. Widely reported cases include the Stanford/Liddell case, the Goodman/Mulcaire Royal voicemail interception, and Operation Barbatus.

Cliff Stanford, and George Nelson Liddell pleaded guilty to offences under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in 2005. They were found to have intercepted emails at the company Redbus Interhouse.[17] Stanford was sentenced to six months' imprisonment suspended for two years, and fined £20,000. It was alleged Stanford had intercepted emails between Dame Shirley Porter and John Porter (Chairman of Redbus Interhouse).[18] In 2007, News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman was sentenced to four months in jail for intercepting the voicemail of members of the Royal Family.[19] His associate Glenn Mulcaire received a six-month sentence.

In 2007, Operation Barbatus exposed a sophisticated criminal surveillance business organised by corrupt police officers.[20] A former Metropolitan Police officer, Jeremy Young, was jailed for 27 months for various offences including six counts of conspiracy to intercept communications unlawfully.[21] A second former policeman, Scott Gelsthorpe, was sentenced to 24 months for offences including conspiracy to intercept communications unlawfully. 3 other former police officers and a private detective were also jailed for their part in running a private detective agency called Active Investigation Services.[22]

In 2008, four people were cautioned for 'Unlawful intercepting of a postal, public or private telecommunications scheme', under S.1(1), (2) & (7). The circumstances of the offences are not known at the time of writing.[23] Three people were tried for 'Failure to disclose key to protected information' under S.53 (of which 2 were tried). One person was tried for 'Disclosing details of Section 49 Notice' under S.54.

In August 2009 it was announced that two people had been prosecuted and convicted for refusing to provide British authorities with their encryption keys, under Part III of the Act.[24] The first of these was sentenced to a term of 9 months' imprisonment.[25] In a 2010 case, Oliver Drage, a 19 year old takeaway worker being investigated as part of a police investigation into a child exploitation network, was sentenced, at Preston Crown Court, to four months imprisonment.[26] Mr Drage was arrested in May 2009, after investigating officers searched his home near Blackpool. He had been required, under this act, to provide his 50-character encryption key but had not complied.[27]

In a further case in 2010 Poole Borough Council was accused of spying unfairly on a family. Although the Council invoked powers under RIPA to establish whether a family fell into a certain school catchment area, when taken before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal it was found guilty of improper use of surveillance powers.[28]

Investigatory Powers Tribunal[edit]

The 2000 Act established the Investigatory Powers Tribunal to hear complaints about surveillance by public bodies. The Tribunal replaced the Interception of Communications Tribunal, the Security Service Tribunal, and the Intelligence Services Tribunal with effect from 2 October 2000.

Between 2000 and 2009 the Tribunal has only upheld 4 out of 956 complaints.[29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Statutory instruments Nos 3171 and 3172 of 2003, 1083 and 1084 of 2005, 1874 and 1878 of 2006 and 480 and 521 of 2010
  2. ^ "Research - Big Brother Watch". Bigbrotherwatch.typepad.com. Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  3. ^ a b c Gordon Rayner and Richard Alleyne: Council spy cases hit 1,000 a month. The Daily Telegraph, 14 April 2008
  4. ^ "Council 'acted like Dick Tracy'". BBC News. 22 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  5. ^ "Family's shock at council spying". BBC News. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  6. ^ Council admits spying on family, BBC 11 April 2008
  7. ^ "Council 'spied on woman 21 times'". BBC News. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  8. ^ Spying council targets fishermen , BBC News 13 May 2008
  9. ^ Spying council to be investigated BBC News, 28 May 2008
  10. ^ "OSC Report 2010-2011" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  11. ^ Review urged on RIPA surveillance powers. LGA media release 23 June 2008
  12. ^ Kirk, Jeremy (1 October 2007). "Contested UK encryption disclosure law takes effect". Washington Post. PC World. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  13. ^ Ward, Mark (20 November 2007). "Campaigners hit by decryption law". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  14. ^ a b c O'Carroll, Lisa (6 October 2014). "Sun makes official complaint over police use of Ripa against journalists". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Travis, Alan (October 2014). “Police told to reveal use of surveillance powers to identify journalists’ sources”, The Guardian, 06 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  16. ^ Wintour, Patrick (12 October 2014). "British police’s use of Ripa powers to snoop on journalists to be reined in". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "Redbus and Demon founder denied RIPA appeal • The Register". www.theregister.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  18. ^ Smith, Lewis (16 September 2005). "Tycoon fined for e-mail spying". London: Times. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  19. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (26 January 2007). "Clive Goodman sentenced to four months". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  20. ^ Bone, Victoria (10 October 2007). "'Network' of police linked to private eyes". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  21. ^ "Six men jailed for misconduct". Metropolitan Police. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  22. ^ "Former police private eyes jailed". BBC News. 10 October 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  23. ^ "Ministry of Justice, RIPA Statistics for 2008". Ministry of Justice - Freedom of Information. 21 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  24. ^ Williams, Christopher Williams (11 August 2009). "Two convicted for refusal to decrypt data • The Register". theregister.co.uk. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  25. ^ Williams, Christopher Williams (24 November 2009). "UK jails schizophrenic for refusal to decrypt files • The Register". theregister.co.uk. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  26. ^ "BBC News, 5 October 2010". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  27. ^ "The Daily Mail, 6 October 2010". Dailymail.co.uk. 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  28. ^ Gallop, Nick in The Constitution and Constitutional Reform p.61 (Philip Allan, 2011) ISBN 978-0-340-98720-9
  29. ^ "Reports of the Interception of Communication Commissioner". Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 

External links[edit]