Agenda item

Updated Procedural Guidance: RIPA Covert Surveillance & Covert Human Intelligence Sources (RIPA Procedural Guidance)

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place)


The Cabinet Member considered a briefing note and report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place).  The report provided an update regarding amendments made to the Council’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) Procedural Guidance following:

1.  The Inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners in   December 2016 and their subsequent inspection report, dated   December 2016; and

2.  The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on   25 May 2018.


The Report was considered by Audit and Procurement Committee on 10th September, 2018 (their minute 31/18 refers) and the briefing note provided the Cabinet Member with the discussion and outcome from this meeting.


The report noted that RIPA governed the acquisition and disclosure of communications data and the use of covert surveillance by local authorities.


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 was related to the underage sale of alcohol and tobacco.  The three powers available to local authorities under RIPA were: the acquisition and disclosure of communications data; directed surveillance; and covert human intelligence sources (CHIS).


The Act set out the procedures that Coventry 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 Council’s compliance with RIPA was monitored by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (formerly by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, which was abolished in 2017) who conducted inspections on roughly a bi-annual basis.  The last inspection at Coventry City Council was December 2016.


The Home Office Code for Covert Surveillance and 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 updated and amended RIPA Procedural Guidance and the Use of Social Media in Investigations Guidance were appended to the report and the changes were detailed in the report.


The briefing note recognised that the Audit and Procurement Committee identified that with developments in technology and incoming of GDPR this was a growing area that needed guidance providing by the Council.  They acknowledged that although the case law in the area of Social Media in Investigations was in its infancy the Investigations Guidance was clear about what not to do.  The Solicitor had agreed to keep both documents under review and arrange for communications/ publicity around the launch of both the updated RIPA Procedural Guidance and the Investigations Guidance.


RESOLVED that the Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities:


1.  Consider any comments and recommendations provided by the   Audit and Procurement Committee.


2.  Approve the updated and amended RIPA Procedural Guidance as   a formal record of the Council’s use and compliance with RIPA.

Supporting documents: