IPCO Blog

  • A year in the making By Emily, Project Manager at IPCO

    I joined IPCO a year ago, when we were a discombobulated band scattered across disparate offices in the Home Office. The twelve months since have been an incredible journey of collaboration and camaraderie to ensure IPCO is up and running in time to meet our intended milestones.

    Resourcing was the first challenge, attracting and installing the right people to carry IPCO forward with the expertise and professionalism that the British oversight and warrantry approval services demanded, both for the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies and for the British public. We were overwhelmed by the quality of applicants for the Judicial Commissioner (JC) roles and selected 15 of the best to join us in August last year. The JC’s range of legal expertise and experience is huge and sets us up well for the future. Recruiting the rest of the team required more perseverance as we navigated government recruitment practices. Finally, our skilled, trained and deployed team reached full complement in May. Keeping the project on track until that point relied on the dedication and commitment of an under-resourced team taking on additional duties and working long hours. Needless to say the new team members have been warmly welcomed as liberating troops.

    Before Christmas we moved into our new offices, co-locating the team under one roof at last. That was pivotal for us. More team members joined in January as we built momentum.
    From this point on our focus was on developing the processes for warrantry approval and resolving any policy issues. With so many stakeholders, agreeing interpretations of policy and processes to work across the myriad of organisations’ operating systems, in Law Enforcement and the Intelligence Agencies, was always going to be complex but everyone approached it in a spirit of collaboration with a dedication to finding solutions.

    As we agreed policies so too the processes evolved taking best practice from existing organisations, optimising our processes with new technologies to streamline and add efficiencies. With almost all UK warrants coming to IPCO for double lock review, these processes were under immense scrutiny from the policing and intelligence agencies. Work on the processes culminated in two full day test sessions, in a great effort involving all the  Intelligence, Law Enforcement Agencies, key government departments, Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Office to name a few. Using warrants resembling probable scenarios and involving people engaged in this work across the length and breadth of the country on test days, the initial test session was the first time our processes were put into practice.  This threw up a number of areas to finesse and we spent the following month refining these processes. We carried out more internal practices, before we held a second set of test days. The second test passed smoothly and we processed surge volumes with capacity to spare.
    Our journey so far has also involved starting our important engagement work with conferences, reciprocal visits and sharing Best Practice with our European, American, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand counterparts. We have engaged with universities and debated and shared goals with a number of our NGO stakeholders such as Liberty, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch.

    Our journey so far has been defined by the unique and wonderful people who have played a part in it along the way, to ensure the capability we offer is the best we can.  But we wouldn’t have achieved this on our own and IPCO’s success in getting off the ground owes much to the dedication and support provided throughout government and the security and policing organisations.

    Commencement Orders have been placed in front of the Home Secretary and Parliament this month meaning IPCO can proudly hang an ‘open for business’ sign in its shop window and the real work begins!