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Who is the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and what does the role involve?

Lord Justice Sir Adrian Fulford was appointed as Commissioner for a three-year term in March last year.

The Press Association interviewed Britain’s first Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

What is the Investigatory Powers Commissioner?

A post set up under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 to oversee the use of a range of tactics deployed by security agencies and police to tackle serious crime and terrorism.

Who is the Commissioner?

Lord Justice Sir Adrian Fulford is a Court of Appeal judge. He was appointed as Commissioner for a three-year term in March last year.

Will he have any help?

Yes. Fifteen recently retired or serving senior judges will serve as judicial commissioners. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) also has a technical advisory panel of scientific experts, and around 50 official staff including inspectors and lawyers.

Which bodies will be subject to scrutiny?

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The IPCO will provide oversight of the activities of the intelligence agencies, including GCHQ (GCHQ/PA)

The most sensitive aspect of the IPCO’s work is likely to centre on providing oversight of the activities of the intelligence agencies – MI5, GCHQ, and MI6 – but in total more than 600 public authorities and institutions have investigatory powers.

What will “oversight” actually involve?

A key change in the IP Act was the introduction of a “double lock” approval process for the most intrusive powers. This means that warrants issued by a Secretary of State will have to be approved by a Judicial Commissioner before coming into force.

What powers are covered by this system?

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Interception operations such as reading the contents of a target’s emails will be subject to the double lock process (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Interception operations, such as where agencies listen to phone calls or read the contents of a target’s emails, will be subject to the double lock process. The use of “equipment interference” – or hacking – and so-called “bulk powers” will also require judicial sign-off.

What other functions does the Commissioner’s office have?

The use of all investigatory powers will be subject to a programme of retrospective inspection and audit by judicial commissioners and IPCO inspectors.

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