Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Grim RIPA

The fact that 19 police forces used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to find journalistic sources raised eyebrows, but silence still remains on who was involved.

The Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO) report found that RIPA did not “provide adequate safeguards to protect journalistic sources” and concluded: “It is recommended that judicial authorisation is obtained in cases where communications data is sought to determine the source of journalistic information.”

Sadly the report did not identify where, when and even which police forces used RIPA – leaving most journalists with no idea whether they have been targeted or not.

In the 55-page report it says 19 forces have made 608 RIPA applications for communications data relating to sources over the last three years. It adds that 105 journalists are listed as “of interest” across 34 individual investigations, and 82 had their telephone records obtained under the Act.

The fallout has left journalist organisations scratching their heads with the Metropolitan Police calling those who use Freedom of Information requests to ask about RIPA ‘vexatious litigants’ and  refusing to provide any information.

Which brings us back full circle to the initial ‘Alice’ report, in which the Met’s use of RIPA to access the Sun newspaper journalist Tom Newton Dunn’s Vodafone records was first revealed. This led to three police officers getting sacked for being whistleblowers in the so-called Plebgate row with MP Andrew Mitchell.

The use of RIPA has totally undermined the principles of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) in which all journalists must be notified of an application to access their material and the right of hearing before a judge and the possibility of an appeal.

Liz Justice