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UK's data-snooping regulator steps down five months early

IOCCO head quits to recover from car accident injuries

By Alexander J Martin, 29 May 2015

Updated Sir Anthony May, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, has decided to stand down from the role at the end of July, short of the end of his three-year term which would have expired in December this year.

In a statement [PDF] provided by his office, Sir Anthony explained his decision was due to his recovery from a road accident in June 2014, in which he suffered serious injuries.

He was temporarily replaced by Sir Paul Kennedy until December 2014, when he resumed work.

Sir Anthony said, in his resignation statement:

On my return [from sick leave], I outlined my intention to finish our inquiry into the use by police forces of communications data powers under RIPA to determine journalistic sources and complete my half-yearly report, which was laid in Parliament by the Prime Minister on 12 March 2015.

The use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to investigate journalists' sources caused a predictable scandal in the media but also received harsh criticism from the Home Affairs Select Committee.

IOCCO, the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office, opened an inquiry into police forces' use of RIPA to identify journalists' confidential sources in October 2014. It published its report (PDF) into the use of RIPA in February this year.

A review of RIPA was subsequently appended to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), which had been rushed through Parliament in July last year.

"I no longer feel that I am in a position to give the role the commitment that it requires and deserves," the commissioner said. He also thanked his office for the "tremendous support" he received since taking up post in January 2013.

"IOCCO remains committed to better informing the public and Parliament about our work and to ensuring there is greater transparency and accountability with regard to public authorities' use of intrusive RIPA powers," Sir Anthony added.

The Home Office has told The Register it will be providing a comment on Sir Anthony's decision shortly. We will update this article when the comment arrives. ®

Update

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

I am grateful to Sir Anthony for his outstanding work as the Interception of Communications Commissioner. He has consistently produced clear and decisive public reports that demonstrated the strength of intelligence oversight in this country. I wish him well for the future.

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