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Information about the Council and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000



Somerset Council takes its statutory responsibilities seriously. It will always act under the law, and take action that is necessary and proportionate to the discharge of such statutory responsibilities. As part of its work, the Council may need to carry out covert surveillance and other related activities.

The Human Rights Act 1998 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
(c) proportionate

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act provides the mechanism for authorising covert surveillance and the use of a ‘covert human intelligence source’, for example, 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 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act for this council is in relation to covert surveillance. In this context Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act seeks to ensure that any interference with an individual’s right under Article 8 of the European Convention (Right to respect for Private and Family Life) is necessary and proportionate.

Officers who wish to carry out covert surveillance or other activities authorised by Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 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, the authorising officer will consider whether the proposed surveillance is necessary. They will question if there is any other way of getting the information. The officer will also consider if surveillance is proportionate to check if the alleged wrong justifies 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 that sets out the council’s position and the procedures that officers are required to follow.

You can find further advice and information from The Home Office website (type ‘Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act’ into the search box) and the website of the Office of Surveillance Commissioners.

Last reviewed: February 19, 2024 by Ian

Next review due: August 19, 2024

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