Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

South Somerset District Council takes its statutory responsibilities seriously and it will at all times act in accordance with the law and take action that is both necessary and proportionate to the discharge of such statutory responsibilities. As part of its work the Council may be required to carry out covert surveillance and other related activities.

The Human Rights Act 1998 (which enacted much of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 into UK domestic law) requires the council and agencies working on its behalf to respect, the rights of individuals to a private and family life, their home and their correspondence.

However this is a qualified and not an absolute right. Accordingly, in certain circumstances the council may interfere with the citizen's rights mentioned above if such interference is:­

(a) in accordance with the law;

(b) necessary; and

(c) proportionate.

RIPA provides the mechanism for authorising covert surveillance and the use of a 'covert human intelligence source' e.g. undercover agents. It also allows for the acquisition and disclosure of communications data and the investigation of electronic data protected by encryption. The main use of RIPA for this council is in relation to covert surveillance. In this context RIPA seeks to ensure that any interference with an individual's right under Article 8 of the European Convention (Right to respect for Private & Family Life) is necessary and proportionate.

Officers who wish to carry out covert surveillance or other activities authorised by RIPA are required to have undergone suitable training by this council. An application would need to be made to an authorising officer who has also received suitable training and is approved to consider such applications. Every time an application is made that authorising officer will be considering whether the proposed surveillance is necessary i.e. is there any other way of getting the information and proportionate i.e. does the alleged wrong justify the interference with an individual's rights.  Once internal approval has been given judicial approval is necessary, therefore an application must be made to the Magistrates Court for approval by a JP (District Judge or Magistrate) before directed surveillance can be undertaken.

The council has adopted a Policy and Procedures guide that sets out the council's position and the procedures that officers are required to follow.

Further advice and information can be obtained from The Home Office Website (type RIPA into the search box) and the website of the Office of Surveillance Commissioners.