The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, RIPA, stipulates how and in what circumstances Local Authorities can use covert investigation methods. In itself it does not give any powers to carry out such activities.
Using RIPA ensures that Local Authority officers carry out covert activities compatibly with the European Convention of Human Rights and especially article 8 the right to respect for private and family life.
The techniques can only be used where it is considered necessary to investigate a suspected crime or disorder and it is proportionate i.e. the seriousness of the offence outweighs the seriousness of the intrusion into privacy and whether the information can be obtained by other (less intrusive) means.
Local Authorities can use three covert techniques:
Use of all of these techniques has to be authorised internally by an Authorising Officer or a Designated Person for communications data. The Authorising Officer or Designated Person has to be a Head of Service, Service Manager or equivalent, a Principal Trading Standards Officer is not of sufficient seniority. The Head of Paid Service or person acting as such must give authorisation of:
- directed surveillance or the use of a CHIS likely to obtain defined confidential information or
- the deployment of a juvenile or vulnerable person (by virtue of mental or other condition) as a CHIS
The Local Authority authorisations and notices can only be given effect once an order approving the authorisation or notice has been granted by a Justice of the Peace.