The Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) is responsible for overseeing the use of covert surveillance by designated public authorities by carrying out regular inspections. (Appendix E of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner’s Annual Report (2012-13) lists those whom the OSC inspects and how often.) In the UK the inspections check councils’ compliance with Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000(RIPA) (and in Scotland The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 (RIP(S)A)) for use directed surveillance, intrusive surveillance and covert human intelligence sources (CHIS).
As part of our provision of tailored in house training, we have to read OSC inspection reports. The following is a list of common mistakes highlighted by the OSC. They are not attributable to any particular organisation.
Use of out of date forms
No Unique Reference Number (URN)
Not amending forms so that only those grounds are present which are available to the public authority e.g. councils – preventing or detecting crime
Pre completed forms
Use of cut and paste in boxes/repetitive narrative
Rubber stamping – no real thought given to authorisation
Necessity, proportionality and collateral intrusion not fully understood/considered by investigators and authorisers
Likelihood of obtaining Confidential Information not fully considered
Some ‘open source’ internet research is being conducted which may actually meet the criteria of Directed Surveillance and therefore require authorisation
Confusion re: reviews and renewals
Lack of understanding of when a person is a CHIS
Two many Authorising Officers
Authorising Officers are not making adequate provision for destruction of product that is collateral intrusion or of no value to the operation
Several authorities are pooling resources but then not obtaining authorisations and keeping records in relation to a proper designated authority
Confusion about interference with property powers under Police Act 1997
NB councils cannot do this
More robust management and quality assurance procedures required
- Central records not compliant with the Code of Practice
- Inadequate monitoring, recording and audit of surveillance equipment
- Inadequate handling and storage of surveillance product/evidence
POLICIES AND PROCEDURE DOCUMENTS
- Inadequate/no RIPA policy
- In adequate guidance document (or out of date)
- No CCTV protocol/procedure
- OSC may wish to visit your CCTV control room
TRAINING AND AWARENESS
- Inadequate training
- Lack of regular training/refresher trainer
- Inadequate record of those who have been trained
- OSC may ask to see recent training materials
If you are considering refresher training for RIPA investigators and authorisers, please see our full program of RIPA Courses and our online webinars. We can also deliver tailored in house training at your premises.
Ever since the changes to the council surveillance regime, which came into force on 1st November 2012, the OSC has taken an interest in ensuring councils do not authorise surveillance under RIPA for “minor offences.” In addition they have been keen to ensure that council’s have an agreed protocol and procedure for presenting authorisation applications to the Magistrates’ Courts. Finally where surveillance needs to be done outside the scope of RIPA then a Non RIPA authorisation policy should be implemented and followed.
Do your RIPA documents need revision? Avoid re inventing the wheel! Our RIPA Policy and Procedures Toolkit gives you a standard policy as well as forms (with detailed notes to assist completion) for authorising RIPA and non-RIPA surveillance. Over 200 different organisations have bought this document (available on CD as well).