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Guildford and Waverley Councils to Align Covert Surveillance Policies

Published on: 23 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 25 Aug, 2023

By Martin Giles

Policies on the use of controversial powers of covert surveillance given to local authorities are to be updated and standardised between Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils as part of their joint working initiative, if approved by the Executive committees of the two councils.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (“RIPA”) defines surveillance to include: monitoring, observing or listening to persons, their movements, their conversations or their other activities or communications.

Local authorities investigate offences in a wide range of areas including trading standards, benefit fraud, environmental health, anti-social behaviour, licensing and more recently breach of Covid regulations.

As part of their investigations, local authorities can undertake surveillance for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime. They can use “directed surveillance” and “Covert Human Intelligence Sources” (CHIS).

These techniques can only be used where it is considered necessary and proportionate. Before being used they must be approved by an authorised officer or designated person within the local authority.

The local authority does not have power to carry out intrusive surveillance (eg planting a listening device in an individual’s private vehicle or residence). Only the police, and other law enforcement agencies, can carry out intrusive surveillance.

According to a report on GBC’s Executive Committee’s agenda for Thursday (August 24): “GBC only uses covert surveillance powers exceptionally. In the last five years, the council has only used its powers twice, once in February 2019 and once in August 2021.” Both uses were in relation to directed surveillance, ie likely to result in the obtaining of private information about a person.

And covert surveillance can only be used in certain circumstances, eg where necessary to investigate a suspected crime or disorder with a maximum prison sentence of at least six months.

See the full council report: “Review of Guildford Borough Council’s Covert Investigative Powers Policy and alignment with the Policy of Waverley Borough Council” here.

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Responses to Guildford and Waverley Councils to Align Covert Surveillance Policies

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 23, 2023 at 2:17 pm

    My thought on this, the councils to agree never to use this legislation.

    End of discussion!

  2. Mike Smith Reply

    August 26, 2023 at 6:08 pm

    Surveillance is heavily regulated these days, so as long as it’s done properly I don’t see a problem.

    “Directed surveillance” is generally no more than what any private citizen can legally do.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      August 27, 2023 at 12:03 pm

      if you have nothing to fear nothing to loose really.

      My home was live on the internet thanks to the Ministry of Transport – “No one has control of the traffic cameras except – Redhill” and Birmingham hub, and Surrey Police….. and after being found guilty of 3 GDPR and 1 CCTV code of practice violations, the Mot and SCC Police – they installed hard stops on the camera.
      When it failed due to an accident in Clay lane snapped the cable, A discussion with the onsite technician it was disclosed the operator at Redhill centre complained she couldn’t look into my home!

      Yes Heavily regulated until its not!

  3. John Lomas Reply

    August 27, 2023 at 9:01 pm

    I used to live in Lancashire and the Lancashire Constabulary had a Leyland convoy minibus with blacked-out side windows. A sign written on the side of the vehicle had a Lancashire red rose logo and the words “Covert Surveillance Unit”.

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