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RIPA policy

Covert Human Intelligence Source

4. Covert Human Intelligence Source

4.1 What is a covert human intelligence source (CHIS)?

A person is a CHIS if:

  • he establishes or maintains a personal or other relationship with a person for the covert purpose of facilitating the doing of anything falling within the two bullet points below
  • he covertly uses such a relationship to obtain information or to provide access to information to another person: or
  • he covertly discloses information obtained by the use of such a relationship or as a consequence of the existence of such a relationship.

The Council can use a CHIS only for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime.

4.2 What is likely to fall within the definition of a CHIS for Council purposes?

The use of a CHIS by the Council is likely to be infrequent.  This type of source of information will be more commonly used by the Police, Security Service, Customs & Excise, other intelligence services etc. where it is normal practice to use agents, informants and officers working undercover.

The provisions of RIPA are not intended to apply in circumstances where members of the public volunteer information as part of their normal civic duties, or to contact numbers set up to receive information eg Crime stoppers or Anti-fraud Hotline. Members of the public acting in this way would not generally be regarded as sources. However, a member of the public giving information will become a CHIS if the information which he/she covertly passes to the Council has been obtained in the course of (or as a consequence of the existence of) a personal or other relationship. When an informant gives repeat information about a suspect or about a family, and it becomes apparent that the informant may be obtaining that information in the course of a family or neighbourhood relationship, then legal advice must be sought. It is likely that the informant is in reality a CHIS.   

The 'use' of a source involves inducing, asking or assisting a person to engage in the conduct of a source or to obtain information by means of the conduct of such a source.

There are occasions, however, when the Council may use a CHIS to obtain information e.g.

  • A CHIS may be used as a source to obtain information in respect of an investigation into Housing or Council Tax Benefit Fraud; this may be a Council Officer acting undercover.
  • A CHIS may be used as a source to obtain information in respect of an investigation into the loss of monies at Council premises where there are cashier activities; this may be a Council Officer acting undercover.
  • A professional witness CHIS posing as a neighbour to obtain evidence.

This list is clearly not definitive.  There is an element of judgement involved in determining when an individual taking some part in an investigation may be acting as a CHIS and the matter is not entirely black and white; if in doubt take advice from Legal Services.

Material obtained from a CHIS may be used as evidence in criminal proceedings and the proper authorisation of a CHIS should ensure the legality of such evidence.

4.3 Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Activities (e.g. noise, violence, racist, etc)

  • Persons who complain about ASB and are asked to keep a diary will not normally be a CHIS and therefore do not require authorisation. However, it is always advisable to take legal advice in this regard.
  • Recording the level of the noise (e.g. decibel) will not normally capture private information and, therefore, does not require authorisation.

Recording sound (with a DAT recorder) on private premises could constitute intrusive surveillance, unless it is done overtly.  For example, it will be possible to make a recording, if the noisemaker is warned that this will occur if the level of noise continues.  Placing a stationary mobile or video camera outside a building to record ASB on residential estates will require prior authorisation.

4.4 Are there any special requirements to observe when using a CHIS?


There are rules about the use of vulnerable adults or juveniles as sources and there are also special requirements with regard to the management, security and welfare of sources.  Refer to the procedure on CHIS at Appendix A.  The use of a CHIS can only be used if the RIPA procedures are followed.

Where the use of a CHIS is deployed, a 'Handler' (who can be an officer of the Council)) should be designated to have the day to day responsibility for dealing with the CHIS and the security and welfare of the CHIS. Further, a "Controller" should be designated to have the general oversight of the use made of the CHIS. In addition a "Record Keeper" should also be designated. When a CHIS is deployed, records shall be kept to comply with the Home Office Covert Human Intelligence Code of Practice and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Source Records) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/2725).

Tasking is the assignment given to CHIS and can include asking him to obtain information, provide access to information or to otherwise act, incidentally, for the benefit of the relevant public authority. Authorisation for the use or conduct of a CHIS is required prior to any tasking where tasking requires the CHIS to establish or maintain a personal or other relationship for a covert purpose.

4.5 Authorisation/Judicial Approval

Prior to the authorising of a CHIS, the Authorising Officer shall have regard to the safety and welfare of the CHIS and shall continue to have such regard, throughout the use of the CHIS. Where necessary, the safety and welfare of the CHIS should continue to be taken into account after the authorisation has been cancelled or where the investigation has been cancelled or where the investigation has been closed.

An authorisation for a CHIS may be in broad terms and highlight the nature of the CHIS's task. If this changes, then a new authorisation may need to be sought.

Those officers specified in paragraph 3.12 of this Policy will also act as Authorising Officers for the purposes of authorising the use of a CHIS.

As with directed surveillance prior judicial approval will also be sought to the use of a CHIS. Officers should liaise with the Legal Services team to arrange the requisite court hearing.

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