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Surveillance: Citizens and the State - Constitution Committee Contents


Further supplementary letter from Vernon Coaker, MP

  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





 
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