Local authority investigations
Local authority investigations

The following Corporate Crime guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Local authority investigations
  • Challenging the exercise of investigative powers by local authorities
  • The origins of an investigation
  • Who to prosecute?
  • Enforcement powers
  • Evidential issues
  • Gathering evidence

Any local authority is a creature of statute. Where a local authority acts beyond its powers, it will be acting ultra vires.

The Local Government Act 1972 (LGA 1972) gives local authorities power to prosecute criminal offences investigated by their own departments.

These departments include:

  1. trading standards

  2. health and safety

  3. environmental health/food safety and hygiene

  4. education

  5. housing and council tax benefit

LGA 1972, s 222 provides that a local authority can prosecute or defend criminal proceedings where it considers it 'expedient for the promotion or protection of the interests of the inhabitants of their area'. It is for the local authority to determine what is in the interests of its residents and not the courts.

Every case will depend upon its own facts and that a court should be slow to interfere with a local authority's exercise of discretion as to what will promote or protect the interests of their inhabitants.

In Oldham v Worldwide Marketing Solutions, it was confirmed that a local authority was entitled to take broader policy considerations into account when deciding what was in the interests of its inhabitants and that those could include considerations from outside of the local authorities' geographical area.

The extent of local authorities' power to prosecute was considered at length in R v AB. The appellants were awaiting trial for conspiracy to defraud the Legal Aid Authority of