The only positive thing that can be said about the publication of the Annual Reports of the the 3 RIPA Commissioners, is, that for the very first time, they have all been published at the same time.
Thee Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part IV, legally requires that
As soon as practicable after the end of each calendar year, the Intereception of Communications Commissioner shall make a report to the Prime Minister with respect to the carrying out of that Commissioner's functions.
and similarly that
As soon as practicable after the end of each calendar year, the Intelligence Services Commissioner shall make a report to the Prime Minister with respect to the carrying out of that Commissioner's functions.
The Chief Surveillance Commissioner, whose office predates RIPA, which imposes extra duties and powers on him, has a similar legal duty under the Police Act 1997 Part III
"The Chief Commissioner shall make an annual report on the discharge of functions under this Part to the Prime Minister"
The wording of both of these Acts also sets a legal duty for publication:
"The Prime Minister shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of every annual report made"
The Chief Surveillance Commissioner's Report, has consistently over the years been available and online in the July following the calendar year to which it refers. This is hardly a stellar performance, for such a short, vague report, which but this is better than the other two RIPA Commissioners, whose reports used to be published in October, and, scandalously recently over a year after the Calendar Year to which they refer.
It is welcome that all three Reports are available at the same time in July.
However, given the lack of detail in any of them, they should really be published before the end of January following the calendar year to which they refer.
The following is not meant to be a criticism of the integrity or professionalism of any of the individual RIPA Commissioners, who are all former senior Judges, but rather of their timid interpretation of their admittedly restricted roles under the legislation. and the deliberate budget constraints imposed on them by the Government.
See the next three blog articles:
- Report of the Intelligence Services Commissioner for 2007 by Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson
- Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2007 by the Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy
- Annual Report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner to the Prime Minister and
to Scottish Ministers for 2007-2008 by the Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose
This mechanism of a RIPA Commissioner's Annual Report, with no resources or willingness to investigate complaints from the public, does not provide the proper level of transparency and scrutiny of secret snooping and surveillance, which the public has a right to demand in a democratic society.