What we do
Frequently asked questions
Please return completed forms to us by email or by post to the following address:
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal,
PO Box 33220,
To complete forms on your computer and return them to us by email you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your device. Alternatively, you can complete the form by hand and post it to us at the above address.
You may also request hard copies of the leaflet and forms by writing to the above address.
The person, or people, concerned must make their own complaints. This includes any organisation and association or combination of persons. You may assist someone to complete the form and submit it on their behalf. However, the Tribunal Rules require that the complainant signs the form and any additional statements themselves. The only exception to this is a parent or guardian signing on behalf of a child or vulnerable adult.
In addition, the Tribunal cannot accept single applications on behalf of more than one person. This means that two (or more) people cannot sign one single form. This is because the Tribunal must make a determination in relation to each complaint falling within its jurisdiction. It may find that conduct relates to one complainant but not to others linked to that complaint.
The Tribunal can investigate complaints against public authorities under RIPA (2000) and the Investigatory Powers Act.
The Tribunal has no jurisdiction to investigate individuals, private investigators or companies, unless the individuals, investigators or companies are tasked by a public authority covered by the RIPA regime or are acting on behalf of the intelligence services. For example, if a local authority contracted out surveillance activities or asked individuals to carry out surveillance on its behalf, the Tribunal would have jurisdiction to hear complaints.
Yes, the Tribunal’s jurisdiction covers activity in the whole of the United Kingdom.
The Tribunal can consider complaints by anyone who believes they have been the victim of unlawful interference by public authorities using covert techniques regulated by legislation.
This can be any interference the complainant believes has taken place against them, their property or communications, including interception, surveillance and interference with property. The public authorities include the intelligence services, military and law enforcement agencies as well as a range of Government Departments, regulators and local authorities.
The Tribunal can also consider complaints in relation to any conduct by, or on behalf of, the intelligence services.
You will need to complete the appropriate form(s) and provide as much information as you can about the circumstances which lead you to believe that covert action has been or is being taken against you. If you are providing supporting documentation please note that the Tribunal prefers not to receive evidence piecemeal and would appreciate it if you could provide as much of the information as possible at one time, when you submit your form(s).You can find the forms here.
You can bring a case to the Tribunal if you believe that covert activity has taken place. You do not have to have evidence to prove it, although it will help if you provide as much information as you can about the circumstances which lead you to believe that covert action has been taken against you.
The way the Tribunal is set up, and the powers it has, mean it is uniquely placed to facilitate making and answering complaints. It is able to investigate, obtain and protect evidence on behalf of all parties to a complaint.
Yes. The Tribunal is not required to consider complaints made more than a year after the relevant activity took place. However, it can, and does, exercise discretion and extend this time if it would be ‘equitable’, fair, or reasonable to do so in all the circumstances of the case.
Within certain limits, the Tribunal can determine its own procedures. How it investigates and determines a complaint depends on the complaint before it. It applies judicial review principles in all its determinations. The Tribunal makes most determinations on paper without the need for oral hearings. You can find more detail about how the Tribunal works here.
Decisions are made by at least two Tribunal Members, who are either judges or senior members of the legal profession as set out in RIPA. The conclusions they draw include decisions about whether applications are out of time, out of jurisdiction; unsustainable or vexatious. Some decisions can be made by a single Member as set out in the Rules; for example, a single Member can require the respondent to disclose all the documents and information that relate to the complaint.
There is no time limit for responding to complaints or claims. All cases vary in scope and detail, and the Tribunal deals with each one on its merits. The time the Tribunal takes can depend on the responses it receives to its enquiries, and whether it needs to seek more information from the complainant or the organisation they are complaining about.
The Tribunal is restricted in what it can disclose during its investigations. The Tribunal Rules state that the Tribunal can neither disclose information or documents provided to us, nor the fact that any have been provided unless the respondent gives consent, in accordance with Rule 7.
The Tribunal can only inform you that an investigation is ongoing until it reaches a final determination. If the Tribunal finds that the conduct you complain of has occurred, and that it was unlawful, it will determine in your favour and will provide you and the respondent with the determination including any finding of fact. The Tribunal will share with you as much information as it can supply. The Tribunal has a duty to ensure information that is not in the public interest, or that may compromise national security, the prevention or detection of serious crime, the economic wellbeing of the UK, or that gives information about the functions of the security services, is not disclosed.
The Tribunal’s function is to investigate your complaint, to ascertain whether the public authorities have complied with legislation and acted proportionately. It is not the Tribunal’s function to tell complainants whether their telephones have been tapped, or if they have been the subject of other covert activity.
If the Tribunal upholds your complaint, it may be able to disclose details of any unlawful conduct taken against you. If it does not uphold your complaint, it will not disclose whether any conduct has taken place against you.
All public authorities the Tribunal can investigate are under a statutory obligation, under RIPA Section 68(6), to provide the Tribunal with any document or information the Tribunal requires in the course of its investigations.
The Tribunal can demand clarification or explanation of any information the public authorities provide, order an individual to give evidence in person, inspect an organisation’s files, or take any other action it sees fit.
The Tribunal can also request the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to provide the Tribunal with any assistance it requires for an investigation.
The Tribunal deals with all complaints and claims. The organisations that are the subject of a claim or complaint make all their responses directly to the Tribunal for its consideration. Only members of the Tribunal team will contact you about your complaint.
You will not normally be contacted by any other organisation in relation to your complaint.
The Tribunal investigates complaints and claims free of charge.
You do not need to appoint a lawyer, but you are at liberty to do so. If you decide to submit your complaint through a solicitor or other representative, you will normally be responsible for any costs you incur as a result. Legal aid is not available to fund representation in the Tribunal.
Yes. Under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 a complainant has the right to appeal decisions and determinations the Tribunal has made on points of law that raise an important point of principle or practice, or if there is some other compelling reason for granting permission to appeal.
You require the leave of the Tribunal, or the relevant appellate court, to appeal a Tribunal decision.
The General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 ordinarily provide individuals with rights concerning their personal information, such as the right to request a copy of information held by the organisation that has processed it. Those rights do not apply where your personal data is processed by the Tribunal exercising judicial functions.
It should be noted that the Tribunal is not a “public authority” or “FOI public authority” for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 or the Data Protection Act 2018. The Tribunal is prevented by section 68 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and rule 7 of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal Rules 2018 from disclosing information gathered during the course of its investigations.
The Tribunal is a fully independent and impartial court. No Government Department or public authority can intervene in a Tribunal investigation or influence its decisions. The Tribunal makes its determinations based entirely on the evidence before it and operates on the same principles as in judicial review cases.
The Tribunal’s activities are paid for from public funds.
For security reasons the Tribunal does not meet complainants in person. You should send all correspondence to the Tribunal’s P.O Box, 33220 London SW1H 9ZQ. Please note that correspondence received at this address is signed for initially at this point and it can take up to six working days to then reach the Tribunal.
'Judge' is an acceptable form of address for all Tribunal members.