News Article

IPT issues final ruling on interception challenges - amendment

Last Updated: 02 Dec 2015
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal issues a statement apologising for, and correcting an error in its Determination of 22 June 2015.


Big Ben and Westminster Bridge

News Article - 22 Jun 2015


On 1 July 2015, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal issued a statement regarding its judgment of 22 June. It said: 

"The Tribunal wishes to apologise for and correct an error in its Determination of 22 June 2015. The small number of documents in respect of which the Tribunal made the finding that there had been a breach by virtue of the exceeding of time limits for retention (and which have now been delivered to the Commissioner for safekeeping, insofar as not destroyed) in fact related to Amnesty International Ltd (the 4th Claimant in IPT/13/194/H) and not the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (the 3rd Claimant in IPT/13/168-173/H). This mistaken attribution in our Determination, which has now been drawn  to our attention by the Respondents, did not result from any failure by them to make disclosure."

It remains the case, as stated in paragraph 14 of the judgment, that the claimant "has not suffered material detriment, damage or prejudice as a result of the breach, and that the foregoing open determination constitutes just satisfaction, so there will be no award of compensation."

A Government spokesperson said:

"We are aware of an error in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s judgment in the case of Liberty and Others v the Security Services and Others, and understand all interested parties have been notified."

GCHQ has therefore amended the article below to replace the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights with Amnesty International.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has issued its third and final judgment on challenges raised by Liberty, Privacy International and others, to the lawfulness of the UK’s bulk interception powers and of the intelligence-sharing arrangements between the UK and the US National Security Agency.

This judgment follows the Court’s first ruling in December 2014, which stated unambiguously that the legal frameworks governing both the bulk interception regime and the intelligence sharing regime are fully compatible with human rights, in particular the right to privacy.

In this latest judgment the IPT considered whether the communications of six individual claimants were intercepted or handled in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Tribunal has not made a determination in favour of four of the claimants, but has made a determination in favour of two organisations – Amnesty International and the Legal Resources Centre.

In both of these cases the Court ruled that the interception of the relevant communications was indeed lawful and proportionate. However the judgment states that there were aspects in the process and subsequent handling of the material where GCHQ’s internal policies had not been followed precisely.

In its judgment relating to Amnesty International, the Tribunal found:

  • Email communications were "lawfully and proportionately intercepted and accessed"
  • However, the time limit for retention permitted under GCHQ’s policies was overlooked
  • It was satisfied that the product was not accessed after the expiry of the relevant time limit
  • The breach can "thus be characterised as technical", the claimant did not suffer material detriment, and there is therefore no award of compensation.

In respect of the Legal Resources Centre, the Court found:

  • The interception was lawful and proportionate
  • There was, however, an "error" in following GCHQ’s internal procedures in respect of the selection of the communications for examination
  • However, no use was made of any intercepted material, nor any record retained, and so the claimant did not suffer material detriment and therefore there is no award of compensation.

A Government spokesperson said:

"We welcome the IPT's confirmation that any interception by GCHQ in these cases was undertaken lawfully and proportionately, and that where breaches of policies occurred they were not sufficiently serious to warrant any compensation to be paid to the bodies involved.

"GCHQ takes procedure very seriously. It is working to rectify the technical errors identified by this case and constantly reviews its processes to identify and make improvements."