Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the spotlight

Senior judge says there is no guarantee that tribunal procedures satisfy common law requirements home office                                    Home Office photo supplied by Geograph 

A Moseley reader brings to our attention the report that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which claims to be completely independent of the British government, is secretly operating from a base within the Home Office, by which it is funded. Its staff is said to include at least one person believed to be a Home Office official previously engaged in intelligence-related work.

Ian Cobain and Leila Haddou  explain that this tribunal was created in October 2000 by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and given the power to investigate any complaints against GCHQ, MI5 or MI6, as well as complaints about surveillance operations mounted by the police or any other public bodies. Cobain and Haddou add that its location in the Home Office, “strengthen concerns that the IPT is too close to the very agencies which it is meant to be overseeing.”

The IPT has investigated about 1,500 complaints, and upheld only 10; five of these concerned members of one family who had lodged complaints about surveillance by their local council.

Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, ruled against Scotland Yard’s claim that the IPT should hear a case brought by women who said they were duped into sexual relationships with undercover police. He decided that part of the claim should be heard by the tribunal and that part should continue at the high court.

“There is no guarantee,” he said, “that the procedures adopted by the IPT in any particular case will satisfy the common law requirements of natural justice.”

The Guardian article noted that:

  • there is no legal aid for individuals complaining to the IPT;
  • their lawyers will not be permitted to attend IPT’s closed hearings;
  • not only are complainants and their lawyers prevented from being present at the court: until now they have not been permitted to know where the court is located.
  • there is no right of appeal;
  • no complaint against any of the intelligence agencies has ever been upheld.

A day later Henry Porter ends another Guardian article:

When courts and tribunals close their doors and won’t tell lawyers and complainants what is going on, you know that an essential part of a free society is in the process of being degraded . . .

Let’s have the law and the courts out in the open so that everyone understands what the hell is going on. Our free society depends on it.

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Posted on March 7, 2014, in Conflict of interest, Democracy undermined, Government, Parliamentary failure, Secret State and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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