Surveillance powers of local councils
Produced in partnership with Carolina Bracken of 5 Paper Buildings
Surveillance powers of local councils

The following Corporate Crime practice note produced in partnership with Carolina Bracken of 5 Paper Buildings provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Surveillance powers of local councils
  • Surveillance powers available to councils
  • Surveillance cameras and CCTV systems
  • Covert surveillance powers for local councils
  • Surveillance inspection and practice
  • Council application for acquisition of communications data
  • Impact of the Protection of Freedoms Act on surveillance operations

Surveillance powers of local councils

The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA 2016) overhauled the legal framework governing the use of covert surveillance by public bodies, a framework which was largely, but not exclusively, set out by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA 2000). Local authorities have powers under both the IPCA 2016 and RIPA 2000.

Note that the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 enables certain public authorities to authorise criminal conduct by covert human intelligence sources. For more information, see Practice Note: Legislation tracker for corporate crime practitioners—2021—Regulation of intelligence gathering and News Analysis: Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021.

Surveillance powers available to councils

There are three types of surveillance techniques available to local authorities:

  1. the acquisition and disclosure of communications data (such as telephone billing information or subscriber details)

  2. directed surveillance (covert surveillance of individuals in public places), and

  3. covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) (such as the deployment of undercover officers)

Local authorities use covert techniques in support of their statutory functions where they are responsible for enforcing the law in respect of environmental crime; consumer scams; loan sharks; taxi cab regulation; underage sales of knives, alcohol, solvents and tobacco; and the employment of minors. CHIS and directed surveillance techniques are used in test purchase operations to investigate the sale of tobacco, alcohol and other age-restricted products. See Local authority prosecution powers—overview.

While

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