The Prime Minister has today appointed Lord Justice Fulford as the first Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who will be the chief overseer of the UK's new surveillance laws.
The role of the commissioner was established by Section 227 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which allows the Prime Minister to appoint the commissioner. He will authorise and oversee the use of snooping powers by public authorities.
Lord Justice Fulford, who is currently the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, will immediately begin to serve his three-year term. He was a judge of the International Criminal Court in the Hague from 2003 to 2012.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: "I'm pleased to announce the appointment of Lord Justice Fulford as the first Investigatory Powers Commissioner. He brings a wealth of experience in the judiciary and expertise in matters of law which will be crucial to his vital role scrutinising the use of investigatory powers, as part of a world-leading oversight regime."
His appointment is the first of the many moves necessary as the UK rejigs its oversight of state surveillance, although some parties stressed that it could still have been better.
The Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office, which has now been replaced by the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office, recommended — as explained in its evidence to the Bill's Joint Committee [PDF] — that an Investigatory Powers Commission, rather than just a commissioner, would be necessary for the purpose of providing a "clear legal mandate for the oversight body".
At the time, the IOCCO explained that: "The reality is that the Judicial Commissioners will only be performing a very narrow part of the oversight – the prior authorisation of some of the more intrusive investigatory powers.
"The bulk of the oversight will actually be carried out by inspectors and staff within the Commission who need a clear legal mandate to require information from public authorities, to launch and undertake audits, inspections, inquiries, investigations and react in real time when non-compliance or contraventions of the legislation are discovered during an inspection." ®