Functions - Key role

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal was established in October 2000 under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’). It is one of a range of oversight provisions which ensure that public authorities act in ways that are compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, the legislation which translated into UK law the European Convention on Human Rights. Specifically, it provides a right of redress for anyone who believes they have been a victim of unlawful action under RIPA or wider human rights infringements in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Tribunal investigates and determines two types of application on your behalf:

  • Interference complaints against a broad range of public authorities using covert techniques regulated under RIPA
    • A complaint can be about any interference which you believe has taken place against you, your property or your communications. This includes interception, surveillance and interference with property. The public authorities include UK intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies as well as a range of Government Departments, regulators and local authorities.
  • Human rights claims
    • Claims can relate to the use of covert techniques by intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies and to a wider range of human rights breaches you believe have been committed by the intelligence agencies.

The intelligence agencies are: the Security Service (sometimes called ‘MI5’), the Secret Intelligence Service (or ‘MI6’) and GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters). Military includes army, navy and air force, and law enforcement includes both national and territorial police forces.

You are free to make the first type of application (interference complaints against public authorities) to the ordinary courts instead of the Tribunal. However, in some cases of the second type of claim (i.e. human rights breaches involving the intelligence agencies) the Tribunal is the only forum to which you can go.


In this section