The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) controls and regulates surveillance and other means of information gathering which public bodies employ in the discharge of their functions. RIPA provides an authorisation process for covert surveillance and information gathering, and that process can be used as a defence against a claim that the Council has interfered with an individual’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Act regulates directed surveillance, intrusive surveillance, the conduct and use of covert human intelligence sources, and intercepting communications.
The Council has approved a RIPA policy on the authorisation of directed surveillance. Directed surveillance is covert surveillance which is not intrusive but is carried out in relation to a specific operation or investigation in such a manner as is likely to result in the obtaining of private information about any person. The only ground upon which the Council can grant an authorisation for directed surveillance is for preventing or detecting crime, or preventing disorder.
Under the Council’s RIPA policy:
- The Council will apply a presumption in favour of overt investigation methods. The Council will always consider using a variety of overt investigatory tools before considering whether an authorisation is required. Covert investigation will be used only when other reasonable options have been considered and ruled out.
- The Council will only use covert surveillance when the problem is serious and / or persistent, and where overt surveillance would not provide evidence and / or might displace the problem elsewhere.
- The Council will only use covert surveillance either to obtain evidence that can be presented at court, or where another positive outcome relating to the prevention or detection of crime, or the prevention of disorder has been identified eg through the positive identification of perpetrators.
- Authorisations for directed surveillance will only be granted by Directors. As covert surveillance is used in the main to combat environmental damage and anti-social behaviour, this will normally be the Director of Environment and Neighbourhoods.
- The Council will ensure that the quality of authorisations is monitored by Legal Services, and that applicants and authorising officers receive an appropriate level of training.