Report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place)
The Cabinet Member considered a report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place) which reported on the Council’s use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). RIPA governed the acquisition and disclosure of communications data and the use of covert surveillance by local authorities. The report had been considered by the Audit and Procurement Committee on 19th February, 2018 (their minute 83/17 refers).
The report indicated that the Council used powers under RIPA to support its core functions for the purpose of prevention and detection of crime where an offence may be punishable by a custodial sentence of 6 months or more, or were related to the underage sale of alcohol and tobacco. The three powers available to local authorities under RIPA: the acquisition and disclosure of communications data; directed surveillance; and covert human intelligence sources (“CHIS”)
The report noted that the Act set out the procedures that the City Council must follow if it wished to use directed surveillance techniques or acquire communications data in order to support core function activities (e.g. typically those undertaken by Trading Standards and Environmental Health). The information obtained as a result of such operations could later be relied upon in court proceedings providing RIPA was complied with.
The Home Office Code for Covert Surveillance Property Interference recommended that elected members, whilst not involved in making decisions or specific authorisations for the local authority to use its powers under Part II of the Act, should review the Council’s use of the legislation and provide approval to its policies. The Council adopted this approach for oversight of the authority’s use of Parts I and II of the Act.
The report noted that on the 1st September 2017, the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) and the Interception of Communications Commissioners (ICCO) were abolished by the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) was now responsible for the judicial oversight of the use of covert surveillance by public authorities throughout the United Kingdom.
The report also noted that the Assistant Surveillance Commissioner, Sir David Clarke inspected the Council’s RIPA arrangements in respect of directed surveillance on 8th December, 2016. He found that the Council’s arrangements were ‘generally in good order’ and ‘the use by the Council of its statutory powers is appropriate’ and that the ‘quality of authorisations is good’. One of the recommendations he made was that Coventry City Council’s Policy and Guidance be further revised. A revised policy was being finalised and would go to a future Information Management Strategy Group and then to the Audit and Procurement Committee.
The report indicated that for the period 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, as reported to the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC), three direct surveillance applications were granted and three authorisations were granted by the Magistrates. For the period 1st April 2017 to 31st December, 2017 one direct surveillance applications was granted and one authorisations was granted by Magistrates. There were no reported instances of the Council having misused its powers under the Act. There had been no applications for the disclosure of communications data during 2017.
The Audit and Procurement Committee were of the view that there were no specific comments or recommendations to forward to the Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities.
RESOLVED that the Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities:
1. Consider any comments and recommendations provided by the Audit & Procurement Committee.
2. Approve the report as a formal record of the Council’s use and compliance with RIPA.