Government: No RIPA Reform Before Election

There will be no RIPA reform before the election. Neither the Government’s interim measures nor proposed change to RIPA would go far enough to protect journalistic material and sources, the News Media Association has said.

The Government tabled a clause to the Serious Crime Bill, in its final stages before the Lords on Monday (2 Monday), that enables the creation of a code of practice applicable to RIPA authorities’ exercise and performance of RIPA powers in connection with the prevention and detection of serious crime only. This code will not apply to the other grounds for exercise of RIPA powers.

The Home Office Minister Karen Bradley, on behalf of the Government, stated on Monday (23 February) that this is an interim measure, pending primary legislation to implement the  Interception of Communications Commissioner’s recommendations after the election.  Therefore, as another interim measure, the Minister said that the Government will require enforcement agencies to use PACE production orders for interception of communications data.

However, the Home Office Minister also said that the government had no intention of introducing any rights of prior notice, contest or appeal of applications for communications data  – key characteristics of vital importance to the media in relation to PACE production orders for journalistic material. It would be left to the industry to attempt to press that point when lobbying on any primary legislation after the election, the Minister said. 

The Government also published its proposal for a change to RIPA after the election, providing for prior judicial authorisation by the police, National Crime Agency and HMRC, to be granted if satisfied that the statutory grounds were met.

Again, it would not apply to all RIPA authorities, all RIPA powers or all RIPA powers. It would not mirror PACE protections for all journalistic material, nor introduce the PACE criteria for orders or media rights of notification of application, to contest applications or to appeal against judicial decision.