THE POWER TO undertake covert surveillance of individuals or groups by local authorities has been aimed primarily at Moray traders who are selling counterfeit goods.
A national newspaper this week likened the methods and equipment used as akin to those more familiar to James Bond movies – however, Moray’s trading standards manager said they are somewhat more low-tech than high-tech.
Councils were given the power to undertake surveillance operations by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Scotland Act (RIPSA), described by many as a ‘spy charter’.
The reality, however, is that for Moray Trading Standards the powers allow observation of people or businesses who are believed to be conducting illegal and often dangerous sales practices.
“The whole process is very, very tightly regulated,” Peter Adamson, manager at Moray Trading Standards, said, adding: “We have to show that what we are proposing is proportionate and necessary, that there is no other way of doing it.”
Mr Adamson said the sale of counterfeit and dangerous goods was their main target, citing an operation earlier this year that led to a woman receiving an order to undertake 165 hours of community service after being caught with £40,000 of fake branded clothing.
Moray Council received permission to conduct RIPSA surveillance 58 times in the last year according to the report.
Much of the ‘spying’ is simply carried out online, where a high number of counterfeit or illegal goods are sold, with local and national auction sites a prime target for investigators.