Council reveals extent of covert surveillance use

Covert Surveillance used sparingly in Moray
Covert Surveillance used sparingly in Moray

Investigations into the sale of counterfeit goods and illegal sale of cigarettes or tobacco accounted for eight “directed surveillance” operations in Moray last year.

A report to Tuesday’s policy and resources committee will also reveal that “covert human intelligence sources” were authorised by the local authority nine times in the year to March 31, 2015 – again relating to counterfeit goods or illegal cigarette/tobacco sales.

In seven cases authorisation for both types of covert surveillance operations were put in place.

A recent BBC investigation revealed that covert powers involving the use of surveillance cameras had been undertaken over 500 times in two years by local councils in Scotland.

The investigation in February reported fears over misuse of powers granted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act (Ripsa), first introduced in 2000 and intended to combat serious crime and terrorism.

Under separate regulation that investigation also studied the use of additional powers to trawl communication traffic – however, Tuesday’s committee report at Moray Council will reveal that this power was not used in Moray despite the committee having approved a revised policy under the Act in March 2013.

The BBC investigation had revealed the use of covert intelligence sources had been used in South Ayrshire for an operation against under-age sunbed sessions, dog fouling and the unlicensed sale of fireworks.

Aberdeenshire Council had also used the powers to investigate the supply of diet pills and well as counterfeit tobacco, insisting that their operations were “necessary and appropriate”.

In February Moray Council announced that they had revised their policy on covert surveillance after discovering most officers authorised to command operations had never been required to use their power.

As a result the local authority reduced the number of officers commissioned to approve secret recordings from 11 to just four.