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IOCCO’s role:

Prison inspections

The Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO) is charged with undertaking prison inspections on behalf of the Interception of Communications Commissioner. IOCCO undertakes a revolving programme of inspection visits to all prisons where interception takes place, and produces a written report of the findings for the Commissioner.


The procedures for lawfully intercepting a prisoner's communications are set out under the Prison Rules. Function 4 (“Communications and Surveillance”) of the National Security Framework (NSF) and the Public Protection Manual (PPM) should be complied with. Each prison should also have a Local Security Strategy (LSS) document which outlines the procedures in place for the interception of prisoners’ communications.


The primary objectives of the inspections are to ensure that:- 

  • all interception is carried out lawfully and in accordance with the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the Prison Rules made under the Prison Act 1952 or section 13 of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953;
  • all prisons are fully discharging their responsibilities to inform the prisoners that their communications may be subject to interception;
  • there is consistency in the approach to interception work in prisons;
  • the proper authorisations and risk assessments are in place to support the monitoring of prisoners telephone calls and mail;
  • appropriate measures are being afforded to the retention, storage and destruction of intercept product.


The findings of these inspections are outlined in Section 7 of the Commissioner’s Annual Report