The Home Affairs Select Committee has published a report today into the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, concluding that the legislation “is not fit for purpose” and “needs a complete overhaul”.
Big Brother Watch has published a briefing on RIPA, which can be accessed here (PDF).
Our director, Emma Carr, talked to BBC News about the report.
S94 Telecommunications Act
- There is no public disclosure of how this is used, and none of our witnesses has been aware of anyone who considers it their role to scrutinse it or have any oversight powers. We believe this should be reviewed, and one of the Commissioners specifically tasked with oversight of this power, for them to be given the information and access needed to fulfill this role.
- We recommend that the Government published the number of times this power is used on an annual basis.
- We further suggest that the Intelligence and Security Committee conduct an inquiry into the use of this power.
Transparency and record keeping
- “The Committee acknowledges the operational need for secrecy both during investigations and afterwards. However, there has to be proper oversight and scrutiny. The Committee recommends that the Home Office use the current review of the RIPA Code to ensure that law enforcement agencies use their RIPA powers properly.”
- RIPA is not fit for purpose, with law enforcement agecnies failing to routinely record the professions of individuals who have had their communications data accessed under RIPA. The recording of this information is totally insufficient, and the whole process appears secretive and disorganised with information being destroyed afterwards.
- All police forces must communicate openly and effectively with the IOCCO regarding the information they give him about their work.
- The IOCCO should be given further resources to carry out its job
Updated code of practice
- The communications data code of practice contains no advice on dealing with the professions that handle privileged information, nor on the use of confidential helplines.
- There is “vital” that there is better statistical requirements in the code of practice.
- The Government had stated that there would be a revised code in draft “in autumn” which would be open to public consultation. With only 26 days until the new year, the Home Office has failed to meet its own timetable.
Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “When a senior Parliamentary Committee says that the current legislation is not fit for purpose, then this simply cannot be ignored. It is now abundantly clear that the law is out of date, the oversight is weak and the recording of how the powers are used is patchy at best. The public is right to expect better.
“The conclusion of the Committee that the level of secrecy surrounding the use of these powers is permitting investigations that are deemed ”unacceptable in a democracy”, should make the defenders of these powers sit up and take notice. At present, the inadequacy and inconsistency of the records being kept by public authorities regarding the use of these powers is woefully inadequate. New laws would not be required to correct this.
“Whilst this report concentrates on targeting journalists, it is important to remember that thousands of members of the public have been also been snooped on, with little opportunity for redress. If the police fail to use the existing powers correctly then it is completely irresponsible for the Home Office to be planning on increasing those powers.
“Failure by the Government to address these serious points means we can already know that there will be many more innocent members of the public who will be wrongly spied on and accused. This is intolerable.”