The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) provides the legislative framework within which covert surveillance operations must be conducted in order to ensure that investigatory powers are used in accordance with human rights. This Policy Statement is intended as a practical reference guide for Council Officers / investigators who may be involved in covert operations.
Officers / investigators involved in covert operations, must familiarise themselves with the Home Office Revised Code of Practice on Covert Surveillance and Property Interference and the Code of Practice on Covert Human Intelligence Sources in order to ensure that they fully understand their responsibilities. Both documents were revised in August 2018. The Home Office Codes are available from the Home Office website.
Officers/investigators should also familiarise themselves with the Home Office Guidance published in October 2012 - "Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 - changes to provisions under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA)"
The Human Rights Act 1998 [HRA] (which brought much of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom 1950 into UK domestic law) requires the Council, and organisations working on its behalf, pursuant to Article 8 of the European Convention, to respect the private and family life of citizens, their home and their correspondence.
The European convention did not however make this an absolute right, but a qualified right. Accordingly in certain circumstances the Council may interfere in the citizen's right mentioned above, if such interference is: - (a) in accordance with the law; (b) necessary; and (c) proportionate.
RIPA and regulations provide an exemption from the right to privacy in certain circumstances, and allow public bodies to interfere with the individual's right to privacy in circumstances which amount to covert surveillance. However, prior judicial approval must now be obtained for any such operations.
The Council is committed to implementing the provisions of RIPA to ensure that any covert surveillance carried out during the course of investigations is undertaken properly and that the surveillance is necessary and proportionate to the alleged offence/s. The Council seeks to ensure that this Policy Statement remains consistent with the Council's objectives.
This Policy Statement ensures:
- that proper procedures are in place in order to carry out covert surveillance;
- that an individual's right to privacy is not breached without justification;
- that proper authorisation is obtained for covert surveillance;
- that proper procedures are followed;
- that the requisite judicial authority will be sought in all necessary circumstances;
- and that covert surveillance is considered as a last resort having exhausted all other avenues.
If the correct procedures are not followed, evidence may be disallowed by the courts, a complaint of maladministration could be made to the Ombudsman, and/or the Council could be ordered to pay compensation. Such action would not, of course, promote the good reputation of the Council and will, undoubtedly, be the subject of adverse press and media interest. It is essential, therefore, that all involved with RIPA comply with this Document and any further guidance that may be issued, from time to time, by the Council's Legal Services.
Copies of this document can be found on Connect.