The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) is a shadowy and secretive judicial body, which hears complaints about surveillance by public bodies, as laid out when it was established in 2000 by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Members of the IPT are appointed by the Queen and are all barristers or solicitors.

Although it claims independence, it operates from within the Home Office. Statistics published in a 2022 IPT-authored report stated between 2017 and 2021 the percentage of successful HRA cases were less than 4%: “In all years, less than 4% of cases were found in favour, meaning that in 96% of complaints it is determined there is either no activity at all occurring or such activity as did occur was lawfully authorised”.

Most of the hearings are held in secret: applicants are given no right to be present at the hearing; no right to the disclosure of evidence relied on by the opposing party; no right to cross-examine opposing witnesses; no right to funded representation or costs; no right to a reasoned judgment and no right of appeal. The tribunal does not even confirm whether the claimant was under surveillance.  In short, it is a fitting judicial instrument for a process intended to override fundamental human rights.

Kate and other women who had Human Rights Act claims related to undercover officers after 2000, initially brought those claims in the High Court. However, the police fought to keep the claims from being heard in public and in 2013 a Judge ruled they must be heard in the IPT. Kate’s case is now proceeding in the IPT.