IPCO Announcements

  • 2018 Archive Announcements


    Event - Commonwealth Ombudsman Visit

    The Commonwealth recently met the Investigatory Powers Commissioner Sir Adrian Fulford to discuss their respective oversight regimes. They discussed shared challenges in oversight of law enforcement activity and approaches to the inspections.

    Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe     




    Direction on Consolidated Guidance

    Last August, the Prime Minister wrote to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner asking him to continue the oversight of the Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees, which had previous been carried out by the Intelligence Services Commissioner. The IPC accepted the Prime Minister’s request, and has been carrying out this guidance since 1 September 2017. We are today publishing a copy of the Prime Minister’s direction.




    Security Service guidelines on the use of agents

    The Prime Minister today published the text of a direction to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to keep under review the application of the Security Service guidelines on the use of agents who participate in criminality and the authorisations issued in accordance with them. This means that the Commissioner will in effect continue the oversight conducted by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, which since 2014 was conducted on a statutory basis under the previously SECRET 'Third Direction'.




    IPCO’s Advisory Notice on the Approval of Warrants, Authorisations and Notices by Judicial Commissioners

    IPCO is committed to being open and transparent, within the limits of the law and the constraints of the subject matter with which we are dealing. As part of this commitment to openness we are publishing an Advisory Notice which has been issued internally, following extensive discussions with the Judicial Commissioners.


    This Notice has been agreed in order to provide a guide as to how the Judicial Commissioners will approach the information available to them when deciding whether to approve or refuse the Secretary of State’s decision to issue a warrant under IPA 2016. This is to ensure there is a clear understanding as to how the Commissioners will undertake this important task. We are clear, however, that the Notice does not bind the Judicial Commissioners in the exercise of this judicial function.


    We will keep this notice under continuous review, and it is likely it will be amended over time once we have experience of the new warrantry regime and we have received feedback.




    A message from the Commissione by Sir Adrian Fulford

    After all of the work that has been needed to set up IPCO – acquiring new premises and equipment; recruiting staff and Judicial Commissioners; training the judges, the secretariat and the inspectors; working with Professor Sir Bernard Silverman to establish the Technical Advisory Panel; designing new systems; liaising with civil society, some academics and foreign oversight bodies etc. – we are now ready to commence the new warrantry regime. It has been a strenuous, intense and fascinating exercise, full of unexpected hurdles and unusual challenges. But the view of all those who will be involved in this multi-faceted process is that we are ready, and in the next few weeks we will consider the first applications (National and Technical Capability Notices). Disguised elephant traps may yet await us, but we have done all we can to anticipate problems and we are acutely conscious that we must not succumb to the dangers of complacency.


    There could have been an atmosphere of polite, cool distance between us and the bodies over which we have oversight, but I am pleased to report that the exact opposite has been the case. Whilst at all times acknowledging our very different roles, the Security and Law Enforcement Agencies have been extremely cooperative and generous with their time, particularly by giving my Commissioners and staff highly detailed briefings and contributing to our extensive training regime. I am very grateful for the assistance that has been provided to IPCO during these critical days of preparation.


    We are also designing a new, unified inspection regime that will build on the best of the practices developed under my three predecessors: the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Intelligence Commissioner and the Chief Surveillance Commissioner. Different approaches had developed historically and to the extent that is possible and desirable, we will adopt a common stance on inspections. I am very grateful to all the IPCO staff and inspectors for their forbearance and patience during this difficult period of transition (which has felt, as a result, deceptively smooth).


    Over the weeks and months to come, I will seek to give regular, “warts and all” descriptions of how the new regime is unfolding – the “good” alongside the “less-than-perfect”. There will be undoubted difficulties, but we have worked hard to reduce their number and minimise the risk of serious disruption. But watch this space!



    IPC Submissions on bulk powers

    On Wednesday 23 May 2018 we wrote to a number of NGOs regarding bulk powers. We would welcome responses from any other interested parties. You can read a version of our letter.




    IPCO collaboration with the University of Essex By Legal & Policy Team

    At IPCO we are committed to being as open and transparent as we can be and demystifying as much of the work we do as possible. The Commissioner is passionate about the need for greater and continued public engagement. So it has been great working with the University of Essex on our first collaboration.


    We have been working with them on their ‘Human Rights in an Era of Big Data and ICT’ project which is being coordinated jointly by Essex and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We’ve been collaborating on a series of workshops on some issues key to the debate around Big Data and ICT.


    The first workshop, on 14 March, came hot on the heels of publication of an IPCO advisory notice on the approach to be taken by the JCs in reviewing decisions of a Secretary of State. The workshop focused on how the Judicial Commissioners will review applications for warrants for use of investigatory powers. While of course some of those in attendance didn’t agree with everything IPCO put forward (and there wouldn’t be much point in doing engagement if they did!), we were taken aback by the warm welcome for the publication and civil society’s support for our efforts towards greater transparency. Much credit is due to our legal team and Standing Counsel for their work on this.


    At our second workshop in April we brought together representatives of civil society and human rights organisations to think about how necessity and proportionality are understood and how IPCO should conduct its necessity and proportionality assessments when the Judicial Commissioners review decisions made by a Secretary of State. Discussion was lively and insightful! It generated some interesting arguments around Investigatory Powers Act and gave us all food for thought.


    We are working with Essex on two more workshops to look at the role of Intelligence Agencies and what a human rights based-approach to oversight would look like. We are looking forward to both and to further public-facing engagements like these.



    IPCO's response to ISC report on Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition

    The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has published its reports on Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition. We welcome the ISC’s comprehensive report, and the Prime Minister’s invitation for IPCO to make proposals for how the Consolidated Guidance could be further improved. We will aim to consider our proposals as openly as we can and would encourage contributions from everyone who has an interest in this area.


    The Commissioner said: “The ISC’s excellent reports show that for a period after 9/11 the Government’s approach to mistreatment and rendition fell far below the standard I would expect to, and do, see during my inspections today. I am pleased to be taking forward the review of the Consolidated Guidance and look forward to engaging widely as part of that process.”


    Detainee Mistreatment & Rendition



    Prime Ministers Invitation




    A year in the makin by Emily, Project Manager at IPCO

    I joined IPCO a year ago, when we were a discombobulated band scattered across disparate offices in the Home Office. The twelve months since have been an incredible journey of collaboration and camaraderie to ensure IPCO is up and running in time to meet our intended milestones.


    Resourcing was the first challenge, attracting and installing the right people to carry IPCO forward with the expertise and professionalism that the British oversight and warrantry approval services demanded, both for the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies and for the British public. We were overwhelmed by the quality of applicants for the Judicial Commissioner (JC) roles and selected 15 of the best to join us in August last year. The JC’s range of legal expertise and experience is huge and sets us up well for the future. Recruiting the rest of the team required more perseverance as we navigated government recruitment practices. Finally, our skilled, trained and deployed team reached full complement in May. Keeping the project on track until that point relied on the dedication and commitment of an under-resourced team taking on additional duties and working long hours. Needless to say the new team members have been warmly welcomed as liberating troops.


    Before Christmas we moved into our new offices, co-locating the team under one roof at last. That was pivotal for us. More team members joined in January as we built momentum.
    From this point on our focus was on developing the processes for warrantry approval and resolving any policy issues. With so many stakeholders, agreeing interpretations of policy and processes to work across the myriad of organisations’ operating systems, in Law Enforcement and the Intelligence Agencies, was always going to be complex but everyone approached it in a spirit of collaboration with a dedication to finding solutions.


    As we agreed policies so too the processes evolved taking best practice from existing organisations, optimising our processes with new technologies to streamline and add efficiencies. With almost all UK warrants coming to IPCO for double lock review, these processes were under immense scrutiny from the policing and intelligence agencies. Work on the processes culminated in two full day test sessions, in a great effort involving all the Intelligence, Law Enforcement Agencies, key government departments, Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Office to name a few. Using warrants resembling probable scenarios and involving people engaged in this work across the length and breadth of the country on test days, the initial test session was the first time our processes were put into practice.  This threw up a number of areas to finesse and we spent the following month refining these processes. We carried out more internal practices, before we held a second set of test days. The second test passed smoothly and we processed surge volumes with capacity to spare.

    Our journey so far has also involved starting our important engagement work with conferences, reciprocal visits and sharing Best Practice with our European, American, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand counterparts. We have engaged with universities and debated and shared goals with a number of our NGO stakeholders such as Liberty, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch.


    Our journey so far has been defined by the unique and wonderful people who have played a part in it along the way, to ensure the capability we offer is the best we can.  But we wouldn’t have achieved this on our own and IPCO’s success in getting off the ground owes much to the dedication and support provided throughout government and the security and policing organisations.


    Commencement Orders have been placed in front of the Home Secretary and Parliament this month meaning IPCO can proudly hang an ‘open for business’ sign in its shop window and the real work begins!



    Responses to the IPC’s request for submissions on bulk powers

    The following letters have been received in response to the IPC’s request for submissions on bulk powers


    Graham Smith - Partner, Bird & Bird LLP



    Liberty Human Rights



    Open Rights Group



    University of Essex




    IPCO attends Human Rights in a Digital Age (HRBDT) Conference

    The Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office IPCO Interim Chief Executive Graham Webber gave an explanation of the organisation's investigatory powers at Essex University's Human Rights in a Digital Age (HRBDT) Conference in May 2018.

    The conference involved a series of discussions on the challenges and opportunities presented by big data and associated technology from a human rights perspective.

    In his speech, Graham explained the process for granting bulk investigatory powers to intelligence agencies under the UK’s Investigatory Powers (IP) Act 2016.


    This involves four investigatory powers: bulk interception, bulk equipment interference, bulk acquisition of communications data and the retention of bulk personal data sets. The consideration for someone authorising the acquisition of the material is whether it is necessary to do so, having regard to the potential trade-off between the positive and negative impact of the acquisition.


    One of the challenges faced by the oversight body is how to judge proportionality in the context of bulk. There are several considerations for this, but three were particularly relevant at the conference:

    1.     The negative impact of an interference must be assessed, balancing the benefits of holding the data with the impact on privacy. More academic research would be helpful to quantify this impact.

    2.     The positive impact on human rights of these bulk investigatory powers must be factored in.

    3.     Foreseeability must be examined, looking at how the data will be used and how any internal authorisation works.

    Graham noted that the IP Act focuses on authorising the collection of intelligence and does not give guidance regarding how analytical tools (such as artificial intelligence) could be applied data collected under the Act. IPCO is interested in wider views about how to judge these issues, and has previously sought submissions from civil society and the public on issues relevant to the proportionality of bulk powers.


    Submission on Bulk Powers


    Graham Webber



    UN Special Rapporteur visit

    Professor Joseph A. Cannataci, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy recently met IPCO senior staff. We discussed the challenge of setting up IPCO including how the oversight body had absorbed the responsibilities from the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO), the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) and the Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISComm). We also discussed relationships with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the Intelligence Services Select Committee and policy makers. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford, said: “Joe has a crucially important role in promoting the importance of privacy protections. I am pleased that IPCO had the opportunity to share our perspectives and talk through our oversight regime in detail. We are always keen to learn from the broader international perspective that Joe brings, and look forward to further opportunities to work with him.”


    The UN Special Rapporteur has now published a statement covering his mission to the UK.


    Professor Joseph A. Cannataci, the UN Special Rapporteur




    Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner Visit

    The Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner (OCSEC), the Honourable Jean-Pierre Plouffe, recently met the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and his officials in London.

    The purpose of the visit was to discuss Mr. Plouffe's new role as the Intelligence Commissioner, under Canada's Intelligence Commissioner Act contained in Bill C-59. This role will see him stop doing post facto reviews of Communications Security Establishment (CSE) activities and move to reviewing and approving, or not, authorisations and determinations made by Ministers with respect to certain activities of CSIS and CSE. For its part, the new review body of National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) will, among other things, be absorbing the current mandate of the Commissioner.

    Both parties discussed and compared the Canadian and United Kingdom’s oversight regimes and judicial processes. Mr. Plouffe was briefed on the roles of the Judicial Commissioners and IPCO’s inspectors, and our progress in implementing the Investigatory Powers (IP) Act 2016. The visit comes as Canada is about to have the Senate study Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, which establishes the NSIRA, a new body that will be mandated to examine the lawfulness of all Canadian national security and intelligence activities. Bill C-59 will also establish the Intelligence Commissioner Act, of which the Honorable Plouffe will become the first Intelligence Commissioner.


    The Investigatory Powers Commissioner, The Rt Hon. Sir Adrian Fulford, said: “This was an extremely useful exchange of ideas and best practice. We have learnt a great deal from engaging with our oversight partners in other countries.”

    Honourable Jean-Pierre Plouffe




    Interception of Communications Commissioner of the Isle of Man Meeting

    Our legal team recently met with Susie Alegre, the Interception of Communications Commissioner (IoCC) of the Isle of Man. We are looking at ways in which we can work together to facilitate effective oversight of the Investigatory powers and we are exploring where our oversight jurisdictions overlap. We continue to work with other oversight authorities and external bodies to explore ways in which the Commissioner’s functions can be exercised.

    Susie Alegre IoCC



    IPCO Consultation on Consolidated Guidance

    Further to the Prime Minister’s request on Thursday 28 June 2018 for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to make proposals to the Government about how the Consolidated Guidance could be improved, Sir Adrian Fulford has decided to carry out a consultation to hear views from all those who have an interest in this area.


    The consultation document and information on the consultation process can be accessed here and we invite you to address the questions as set out in section 4 of the document when responding. The deadline has been extended and we now invite responses by 4pm on Wednesday 7 November 2018.


    Prime Ministers Request



    Consolidate Guidance



    Consultation Documents




    IPCO's response to juvenile CHIS

    Following recent Parliamentary debates on the use of juveniles as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS), the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harriet Harman MP, wrote to Ben Wallace MP seeking clarification on a number of points. One of the Committee’s questions related to the request made of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford, to collect information on the number of juveniles who are used as CHIS. Sir Adrian Fulford’s response on this matter can be accessed here.


    Harriet Harman MP



    Sir Adrian’s response




    The consultation on the Consolidated Guidance has now ended

    The consultation on the Consolidated Guidance has now ended.  We received a number of valuable submissions and would like to thank all those who submitted responses for taking the time to do so.  You can read those submissions here.  Sir Adrian is currently considering the issues raised and preparing his report for the Prime Minister.  We will provide an update on progress early in the new year.


    Consolidated Guidance Submissions




    Strengthening oversight: the exchange of data between intelligence and security services

    On 14th November 2018, five oversight bodies from Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland issued a joint statement concerning the risk of an oversight gap and ways to tackle this risk, when overseeing international data exchange by intelligence and security services. The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Fulford warmly welcomes the steps they have taken to overcome the challenges in overseeing the sharing of information. His response can be found on the link below.  IPCO intends to share our experiences and contribute to these efforts.




    Safeguards governing investigatory powers now in effect

    All warrants permitting the use of investigatory powers are now subject to the double-lock safeguard requiring approval from one of the Judicial Commissioners. For further information, please see this statement issued by the Home Office: