Today, Thursday 17 December, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has passed judgement on the MPS use of RIPA as part of the Operation Alice investigation.
The IPT has ruled that the use of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) was lawfully applied in three cases and unlawfully in one case.
Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan, who oversaw Operation Alice, said:
“This investigation was a thorough search for the truth as at the heart of it was the extremely damaging allegation that police officers had lied and conspired to unseat a Cabinet Minister.
“It was vital for public confidence in the police, for confidence of the Government and all serving police officers that we investigated those allegations. The investigation was overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and we worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service. As a result of this investigation one police officer went to prison and four others were dismissed.
“The MPS has never sought to shy away from our use of RIPA in this case. Our commitment to transparency has been reflected in the IPT ruling, which states that it was to the credit of the MPS for putting this information into the public domain, through publishing our report detailing the Operation Alice investigation.
“We completely recognise the importance of journalistic privilege and how we should always, wherever possible, seek to protect that right.
“We welcome the ruling of the IPT that our use of RIPA was necessary, proportionate and lawfully applied in three of the four cases and we respect the decision with regard to the fourth. We recognise the level of concern from the media regarding journalistic privilege that this case sparked. All the RIPA applications were made in good faith.
“The MPS welcomed the clarity that IoCCO’s recent report provided on RIPA, which is a hugely complicated area of law. Since then we are operating in line with the draft legislation and applying before a judge when we are seeking material that may identify journalistic sources. This can only bring greater confidence and transparency in this controversial area, for journalists, the public and us.
"I also wish to pay tribute to the commitment and professionalism of all those in the Operation Alice investigation team who conducted such a thorough investigation in complex and unusual circumstances"