Further supplementary letter from Vernon
Thank you for you letter of 18 December. You
asked whether local authorities could use directed surveillance
or covert human intelligence sources prior to being able to do
so under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA),
and, if so, what the statutory basis was for such activities.
Prior to RIPA, the use of directed surveillance
or covert human intelligence sources by any public authority,
including local authorities, was unregulated. There was no specific
statutory basis for, or statutory prohibition on, the use of these
techniques; public authorities, including local authorities, did
use techniques which would now be authorised as directed surveillance
and covert human intelligence sources. There was no established
authorisation process, no requirement for independent oversight
and no independent complaints mechanism. Conversely, public authorities
had no protection in law if they used these techniques.
RIPA addressed this situation and should be
seen alongside the Human Rights Act 1998. It was designed to ensure
public authorities would comply with the ECHR, particularly the
right to privacy in Article 8, when they used covert investigatory
techniques. It did not create any techniques or give any new powers
to public authorities. Instead, it regulated the use of covert
investigatory techniques which were already widely used. In respect
of directed surveillance and covert human intelligence sources,
it did this by making provision for a rigorous authorisation process
independent oversight and an independent complaints mechanism.
It also gave public authorities protection in law if they used
techniques under RIPA.
Local authorities were added to the list of
public authorities able to use directed surveillance and covert
human intelligence sources under RIPA in Statutory Instrument
2003/3171. This came into effect on 5 January 2004.
12 January 2009