On 21 October Sir Brian Leveson starts a three-year term as the second Investigatory Powers Commissioner (IPC). Leveson succeeds Sir Adrian Fulford (Lord Justice Fulford), who will take up a new post as Vice-President of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).
In his new role, Leveson will lead the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) and the Office for Communications Data Authorisations (OCDA). The Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office (IPCO) provides independent oversight and authorisation of the use of investigatory powers by intelligence agencies, police forces and other public authorities. Often described by critics as ‘The snooper’s charter’ The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 sets out and to some extent, expanded the electronic surveillance powers of the UK Intelligence Community and police whose actions were deemed, in the wake of the Snowden revelations of the extent of state surveillance, to have previously exceeded their authority and EU law.
Sir Brian Leveson issued a statement saying: "The authorisation and inspection responsibilities of IPCO and OCDA are critical to ensuring public confidence in the use of investigatory powers."
Investigatory powers are used to gather intelligence for a particular operation or investigation. This can be done, for example, through the acquisition of communications data or the use of surveillance or undercover officers. More than 600 public bodies have authority to use the powers, including the intelligence agencies, police forces and local authorities.
IPCO is responsible for the authorisation and oversight of investigatory powers. The IPC, together with a team of Inspectors and Judicial Commissioners, ensures that the powers are used in the public interest and in accordance with the law.
The Judicial Commissioners are retired senior judges, selected to support the IPC by reviewing warrant applications. The IPCO inspectors are responsible for the inspection of how investigatory powers have been used by public bodies.
Under the provisions in the Investigatory Powers Act (2016), three organisations were merged to form IPCO in 2017: the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners (OSC), the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO) and the Intelligence Service Commissioner’s Office (ISComm).
OCDA considers requests for communications data from law enforcement and public authorities. It started to take applications in March and its offices will be fully operational by the end of 2019.
IPCO’s 2018 annual report will be published later this year.
In 2006, following his appointment as a Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Brian Leveson became Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales. In July 2011, he was appointed by the Prime Minister as chairman of the public inquiry investigating the culture, practices and ethics of the press and its relationship with the public, the police and politicians: his report was published in November 2012.
Earlier this year, Sir Brian retired as President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Head of Criminal Justice.