Site Search:


IOCCO’s role:

Interception inspections

The Commissioner carries out biannual inspections of each of the nine interception agencies.


An application for an interception warrant cannot be issued except on an application made by or on behalf of the persons listed in section 6(2) of RIPA 2000. Those persons are;

  • the Director General of the Security Service (Mi5),
  • the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (Mi6),
  • the Director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ),
  • the Director General of the National Crime Agency,
  • the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police,
  • the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI),
  • the Chief Constable of Police Scotland,
  • the Commissioners of Customs and Excise (HMRC),
  • the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Ministry of Defence.

Interception warrants have to be authorised personally by a Secretary of State (RIPA section 5(1) and 7(1)(a)). The Secretary of State has to sign the warrant personally, except in an urgent case where the Secretary of State has authorised the issue of a warrant which is then signed by a senior official (RIPA section 7(1)(b)).


There are in practice four Secretaries of State and one Scottish Minister who undertake the main burden of authorising (or declining) interception warrants. The Secretaries of State and Minister mainly concerned are; 

  • the Foreign Secretary;
  • the Home Secretary;
  • the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland;
  • the Defence Secretary; and
  • the Cabinet Secretary for Justice for Scotland. 

There are essentially two types of interception warrants. RIPA section 8(1) warrants and section 8(4) warrants.


All interception warrants are for the interception of the content of communications and related communications data. 


The primary objectives of our inspections are to ensure that: 

  • the systems in place for the interception of communications are sufficient for the purposes of RIPA Part I Chapter I and that all relevant records have been kept;

  • all interception has been carried out lawfully and in accordance with RIPA Part I Chapter I and its associated Code of Practice; and,

  • any “errors” are reported to me and that the systems are reviewed and adapted where any weaknesses or faults are exposed.