Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) - Corporate Policy & Procedure



Corporate Policy Statement

The Council takes seriously its statutory responsibilities and will at all times act in accordance with the law and take necessary and proportionate action in these types of matters. In that regard the Council’s Solicitor is duly authorised to keep this document up to date and amend, delete, add or substitute relevant provisions, as necessary.

It is this Council’s Policy that:

  • All covert surveillance exercises for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime or of
    preventing disorder conducted by the Council should comply with the requirements of RIPA
  • Only the Authorised Officers for the Department proposing to undertake covert surveillance
    are permitted to authorise a covert surveillance operation
  • No Authorised Officer should authorise a covert surveillance operation until he or she has
    demonstrated that he or she has the competence to do so
  • A CHIS would be used only rarely and in exceptional circumstances

The District Council’s Constitution and in particular the provisions of the Scheme of Delegation to Officers empowers the Chief Executive, Director of Corporate Resources, Director of Regeneration & Neighbourhoods and Head of Corporate Services to: grant, review, renew and cancel authorisations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.



Term Definition
RIPA Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Directed Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources) Order 2010
The Policy Bassetlaw District Council Corporate Policy & Procedure Document on RIPA
Authorised Officers RIPA refers to "Designated Officers". For ease of understanding and application this document refers to Authorised Officers. These are those posts referred to in Appendix 1 and any that are duly added to or substituted by the Senior Responsible Officer. 

For Authorised Officer's responsibilities go to section E
Senior Responsible Officer The Council's Solicitor. 

For details of responsibilities go to section E.
Central Register  This is kept by the Senior Responsible Officer and will contain copies of RIPA authorisations, cancellations and renewals. 
Members Elected members of Bassetlaw District Council. 

For Members responsibilities go to Section E. 
SPOC Home Office accredited Single Point of Contact. 

For responsibilities go to section J.
CHIS Covert Human Intelligence Source. 

For conduct and use of a CHIS see section G. 
Surveillance Commissioners The Office of Surveillance Commissioners is the statutory body with powers of inspection of all authorities that have the powers to use covert surveillance. Bassetlaw District Council is regularly inspected. 



This document is based on the requirements of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and the Home Office’s Code of Practice for Directed Surveillance Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) and Disclosure of Communications Data and related regulations and orders. It also includes the non-statutory Home Office Guidance to local authorities on the judicial approval process for RIPA and the crime threshold for directed Surveillance issues October 2012.

The authoritative position on RIPA is the Act itself and any Officer who is unsure about any aspect of this document should contact the Senior Responsible Officer for advice and assistance. All Authorised Officers, other senior managers and operational officers who have received appropriate training may apply for an authorisation. Refresher training will be organised as appropriate.

Copies of this document are available on the internet and intranet. The forms are also available on the intranet.

The Senior Responsible Officer will maintain and check the Central Register of all authorisations, reviews, renewals, cancellations and rejections. It is the responsibility of the relevant Authorised Officer to ensure that the Senior Responsible Officer receives the relevant form within 1 week of its completion. The Senior Responsible Officer will routinely check all forms included on the Central Register, including applications and authorisations, to ensure compliance with RIPA and relevant guidance and codes of practice. The Central Register will be used by the Senior Responsible Officer to exercise effective oversight and quality control. Once an authorisation has been given the Senior Responsible Officer will use the Central Register to identify when reviews, renewals and cancellations are due and maintain oversight of compliance with due dates.

RIPA and this document are important to the effective and efficient operation of the Council’s action with regard to the use of covert surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources. This document  will be kept under review by Members & the Senior Responsible Officer. Authorised Officers must bring suggestions for continuous improvements to the attention of the Senior Responsible Officer at the earliest opportunity.

In terms of monitoring e-mails and internet usage, it is important to recognise the interplay and overlap with the Council’s e-mail and internet policies and guidance, the Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice)(Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998 and its related guidance and Codes of Practice. RIPA forms should only be used where relevant and they will only be relevant where the criteria listed on the forms is fully met.

If you are in any doubt on RIPA, this document or the related legislative provisions, please consult the Senior Responsible Officer at the earliest opportunity.

Logs of access to the Internet and use of e-mail are maintained by the Head of Corporate Services. With effect from 5th January 2004 local authorities gained new powers and responsibilities under RIPA  to access communications data (for the purpose of preventing or detection of crime or preventing disorder) by virtue of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) Order 2003 (“the 2003 Order”) which brought into effect the provisions of Chapter II of RIPA. Requests for access to and disclosure of such data will only be able to be made through a designated (in accordance with RIPA and the 2003 Order) Officer who is also a Home Office accredited Single Point of Contact (“SPOC”). The Council will continue to ensure that it has at least one accredited SPOC in place for this purpose.



The Human Rights Act 1998 (which brought much of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 into UK domestic law) requires the District Council, and organisations working on its behalf, pursuant to Article 8 of the European Convention, to respect the private and family life of citizens, their home and their correspondence.

The European Convention did not, however, make this an absolute right, but a qualified right. Accordingly, in certain circumstances, the District Council may interfere in the citizen’s right mentioned above, if such interference is:-

  • In accordance with the law;
  • Necessary (as defined in this document); and
  • Proportionate (as defined in this Document). 

RIPA provides a statutory mechanism (i.e. ‘in accordance with the law’) for authorising covert surveillance and the use of a ‘covert human intelligence source’ (‘CHIS’) – e.g. undercover agents. It seeks to ensure that any interference with an individual’s right under Article 8 of the European Convention is necessary and proportionate. In doing so, the RIPA seeks to ensure that both the public interest and the human rights of individuals are suitably balanced.

Necessary and proportionate

The Home Office’s Code of Practice provides as follows:

  • Obtaining an authorisation under RIPA will only ensure that there is a justifiable interference with an individual’s Article 8 rights if it is necessary and proportionate for these activities to take place. RIPA first requires that the person granting an authorisation believes that the authorisation is necessary in the circumstances of the particular case for one or more of the statutory grounds in Section 28(3) of RIPA for directed surveillance”.
  • Then, if the activities are necessary, the person granting the authorisation must believe that they are proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by carrying them out. This involves balancing the intrusiveness of the activity on the target and others who might be affected by it against the need for the activity in operational terms. The activity will not be proportionate if it is excessive in the circumstances of the case or if the information which is sought could reasonably be obtained by other less intrusive means. All such activity should be carefully managed to meet the objective in question and must not be arbitrary or unfair.
  • Take into account the risk of intrusion into the privacy of persons other than the specified subject of the surveillance (Collateral Intrusion). Measures must be taken wherever practicable to avoid or minimise (as far as possible) collateral intrusion and the matter may be an aspect of determining proportionality.
  • Ensuring the perceived crime or offence satisfies the crime threshold for Directed Surveillance.

Directly employed Council staff and external agencies working for the District Council are covered by the Act for the time they are working for the District Council. All external agencies must, therefore, comply with RIPA and the work carried out by agencies on the Council’s behalf must be properly authorised by one of the Council’s designated Authorised Officers. Authorised Officers are those posts appearing in Appendix 1 and any that are duly added to or substituted by the Senior Responsible Officer.

If the correct procedures are not followed, evidence may be disallowed by the courts, a complaint of maladministration could be made to the Ombudsman, and/or the Council could be ordered to pay compensation. Such action would not, of course, promote the good reputation of the District Council and will, undoubtedly, be the subject of adverse press and media interest. It is essential, therefore, that all involved with RIPA comply with this Document and any further guidance that may be issued, from time to time, by the Senior Responsible Officer. A flow chart of the procedures to be followed appears at Appendix 2.

What RIPA does and does not do

RIPA does: 

  • require prior authorisation and judicial approval of directed surveillance
  • prohibit the Council from carrying out intrusive surveillance
  • require authorisation for the conduct and use of a CHIS
  • require safeguards for the conduct and use of a CHIS

RIPA does not:

  • make unlawful conduct which is otherwise lawful
  • prejudice or disapply any existing powers available to the District Council to obtain information by any means not involving conduct that may be authorised under this Act. For example, it does not affect the District Council’s current powers to obtain information via the DVLA or to get information from the Land Registry as to the ownership of a property.

If the Authorised Officer or any Applicant is in any doubt, s/he should ask the Senior Responsible Officer BEFORE any directed surveillance and/or CHIS is authorised, renewed, cancelled or rejected.


Responsibilities of the Senior Responsible Officer, Authorised Officers and Members

The Senior Responsible Officer is the Council’s Solicitor. The Senior Responsible Officer is responsible for: the integrity of the process in place to authorise surveillance and interference with wireless telegraphy; compliance with the Act; engagement with the Surveillance Commissioners and inspectors when they conduct their inspections, and where necessary, overseeing the implementation of any post-inspection action plans recommended or approved by a Surveillance Commissioner.

The Senior Responsible Officer will ensure that all Authorising Officers and elected members are made fully aware of and receive copies of this document.

It will be the responsibility of Authorised Officers to ensure that relevant members of staff are also suitably trained as Applicants so as to avoid common mistakes appearing on Authorisation forms.

Authorised Officers must ensure that staff who report to them follow this document and do not undertake any form of surveillance without first obtaining the relevant authorisation in compliance with this document.

Authorised Officers must pay particular attention to Health & Safety issues that may be raised by any proposed surveillance activity. Under no circumstances should an Authorised Officer approve any RIPA form unless, and until they are satisfied that the health and safety of the employee or agent are properly addresses and/or the risks minimised, so far as possible, and proportionate to the surveillance being proposed.

Authorised Officers must ensure when sending copies of any forms to the Senior Responsible Officer for inclusion in the Central Register, that they are sent in sealed envelopes and marked Strictly Private & Confidential.

Authorised Officers must ensure that requests for access to and disclosure of communications data under RIPA and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Communication Data) Order 2003, are made through the Council’s accredited SPOC.

Members will review the use of RIPA and set the policy at least once a year. They will consider internal reports on the use of the RIPA on a quarterly basis, where RIPA has been used in the preceding quarter, to ensure that it is being used consistently with the Policy and that the Policy remains fit for purpose. The Senior Responsible Officer will prepare an annual report which will state the number of authorisations granted and a brief outline of the reasons for the authorisations. The report will go to the Scrutiny Committee. The Scrutiny Committee will review the Policy annually and refer to Council if there are any concerns. Members will not, however, be involved in making decisions on specific authorisations.


Types of Surveillance

‘Surveillance’ includes:

  • monitoring, observing, listening to persons, watching or following their movements, listening to their conversations and other such activities or communications.
  • recording anything mentioned above in the course of authorised surveillance
  • surveillance, by or with, the assistance of appropriate surveillance device(s).

Surveillance can be overt or covert

Overt Surveillance 

Most of the surveillance carried out by the Council will be done overtly – there will be nothing secretive, clandestine or hidden about it. In many cases, officers will be behaving in the same way as a normal member of the public (e.g. in the case of most test purchases), and/or will be going about Council business openly (e.g. a Neighbourhood Warden walking through the estate).

Similarly, surveillance will be overt if the subject has been told it will happen (e.g. where a noisemaker is warned (preferably in writing) that noise will be recorded if the noise continues, or where an entertainment licence is issued subject to conditions, and the licensee is told that officers may visit without notice or identifying themselves to the owner/proprietor to check that the conditions are being met.)

Covert Surveillance

Covert Surveillance is carried out in a manner calculated to ensure that the person subject to the surveillance is unaware of it taking place. (Section26(9)(a) of RIPA).

RIPA regulates two types of covert surveillance, (Directed Surveillance and Intrusive Surveillance) and the use of CHIS.

Directed Surveillance 

Directed Surveillance is surveillance which: 

  • is covert; and
  • is not intrusive surveillance (see definition below - the Council must not carry out any intrusive surveillance)
  • is not carried out in an immediate response to events which would otherwise make seeking authorisation under the Act unreasonable e.g. spotting something suspicious and continuing to observe it; and
  • it is undertaken for the purpose of scientific investigation or operation in a manner likely to obtain private information about an individual (whether or not that person is specifically targeted for purposes of an investigation)(Section 26(10) of RIPA).

Private Information

‘Private information’ in relation to a person includes any information relating to his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. The fact that covert surveillance occurs in a public place or on business premises does not mean that it cannot result in the obtaining of private information about a person. Prolonged surveillance targeted on a single person will undoubtedly result in the obtaining of private information about him/her and others with whom s/he comes into contact, or associates with;

Similarly, although overt town centre CCTV cameras do not normally require authorisation, if the camera is tasked for a specific purpose, which involves prolonged surveillance on a particular person, authorisation will be required. The way a person runs his/her business may also reveal information about his or her private life and the private lives of others.

Confidential Information

Particular care should be taken in cases where the subject of the investigation might reasonably expect a high degree of privacy where confidential information is involved.

‘Confidential information’ consists of such matters as legal privilege, confidential personal information or confidential journalistic information. So for example particular care should be given where matters of medical or journalistic confidentiality or legal privilege may be involved.

Where it is likely that through the use of surveillance knowledge of confidential information will be acquired the Authorisation must be given by the Chief Executive or in his absence his nominated Deputy.

In general an application for surveillance which is likely to result in the acquisition of legally privileged information should only be made in exceptional and compelling circumstances. Particular regard should be had to the issue of proportionality. Similar considerations should also be given to authorisations that involve confidential personal information and confidential journalistic material.

‘Legally privileged’ information applies to communications between a professional legal adviser and their client or any person representing their client which are made in connection with the giving of legal advice to the client or in contemplation of legal proceedings.

‘Confidential personal information’ is information held in confidence relating to the physical or mental health or spiritual counselling concerning an individual (whether living or dead) who can be identified from it. Examples might include consultations between a health professional and a patient.

‘Confidential journalistic material’ includes material acquired or created for the purposes of journalism and held subject to an undertaking to hold it in confidence.

For the avoidance of doubt, only those officers designated and certified to be Authorised Officers for the purpose of RIPA can authorise ‘Directed Surveillance’ IF, AND ONLY IF, the RIPA authorisation procedures detailed in this Document, are followed. If an Authorised Officer has not been ‘certified’ for the purposes of RIPA, s/he can NOT carry out or approve/reject any action set out in this document.

Intrusive Surveillance

This is when it:-

  • is covert;
  • relates to residential premises or private vehicles; and
  • Involves the presence of a person  in the premises or in the vehicle or is carried out by a surveillance device in the premises/vehicle. Surveillance equipment mounted outside the premises will not be intrusive, unless the device consistently provides information of the same quality and detail as might be expected if they were in the premises/vehicle.

This form of surveillance can be carried out only by the police and other law enforcement agencies. Council officers must not carry out intrusive surveillance.

Examples of different types of Surveillance


Type of Surveillance Examples
  • Police Officer or Parks Warden on patrol
  • Sign-posted Town Centre CCTV cameras (in normal use) 
  • Recording noise coming from outside the premises after the occupier has been warned that this will occur if the noise persists
  • Most test purchases (where the officer behaves no differently from a normal member of the public).
Covert but not requiring prior authorisation
  • CCTV cameras providing general traffic, crime or public safety information.
Directed must be RIPA authorised
  • Officers follow an individual or individuals over a period, to establish whether s/he is working when claiming benefit or off long term sick from employment.
  • Test purchases where the officer has a hidden camera or other recording device to record information that might include information about the private life of a shop-owner, e.g. where s/he is suspected of running his business in an unlawful manner.
Intrusive – the District Council cannot do this! 
  • Planting a listening or other device (bug) in a person’s home or in their private vehicle.


Conduct and Use of a Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS)

Who is a CHIS

Someone who establishes or maintains a personal or other relationship for the covert purpose of helping the covert use of the relationship to obtain information.

RIPA does not apply in circumstances where members of the public volunteer information to the District Council as part of their normal civic duties, or to contact numbers set up to receive information.

What must be authorised?

The Conduct or Use of a CHIS require prior authorisation.

  • Conduct of a CHIS = Establishing or maintaining a personal or other relationship with a person for the covert purpose of (or is incidental to) obtaining and passing on information.
  • Use of a CHIS = Actions inducing, asking or assisting a person to act as a CHIS and the decision to use a CHIS in the first place.

The Council can use a CHIS IF, AND ONLY IF, RIPA procedures, detailed in this Document are followed.

Confidential Information

In cases where through the use or conduct of a source it is likely that knowledge of confidential information will be acquired the deployment of the source is subject to a higher level of authorisation. Such authorisations must be given by the Chief Executive or in his absence his nominated Deputy.

‘Confidential information’ consists of such matters as legal privilege, confidential personal information or confidential journalistic information. Further details are provided in Section F above.

Juvenile Sources

Special safeguards apply to the use or conduct of juvenile sources (i.e. under 18 years old). On no occasion can a child under 16 years of age be authorised to give information against his or her parents. Authorisations for juvenile sources can only be granted by the Chief Executive or in his absence his authorised deputy.

Vulnerable Individuals

A Vulnerable Individual is a person who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of himself or herself, or unable to protect himself or herself against significant harm or exploitation.

A Vulnerable Individual will only be authorised to act as a source in the most exceptional of circumstances.

Authorisations for the use of a vulnerable individual as a source can only be granted by the Chief Executive or in his absence his authorised deputy.

Test Purchases

Carrying out test purchases will not (as highlighted above) require the purchaser to establish a relationship with the supplier with the covert purpose of obtaining information and, therefore, the purchaser will not normally be a CHIS. For example, authorisation would not normally be required for test purchases carried out in the ordinary course of business (e.g. walking into a shop and purchasing a product over the counter).

By contrast, developing a relationship with a person in the shop, to obtain information about the seller’s suppliers of an illegal product (e.g. illegally imported products) will require authorisation as a CHIS. Similarly, using mobile hidden recording devices or CCTV cameras to record what is going on in the shop will require authorisation as directed surveillance. A combined authorisation can be given for a CHIS and also directed surveillance.

Anti-social behaviour activities (e.g. noise, violence, race etc)

Persons who complain about anti-social behaviour, and are asked to keep a diary, will not normally be a CHIS, as they are not required to establish or maintain a relationship for a covert purpose. Recording the level of noise (e.g. the decibel level) will not normally capture private information and, therefore, does not require authorisation.

Recording sound (with a DAT recorder) on private premises could constitute intrusive surveillance, unless it is done overtly. For example, it will be possible to sound record if the noisemaker is warned that this will occur if the level of noise continues.

Placing a stationary or mobile video camera outside a building to record anti-social behaviour on residential estates will require prior authorisation.


Social Networking Sites and Internet Sites

Although social networking and internet sites are easily accessible, if they are going to be used during the course of an investigation, consideration must be given about whether RIPA authorisation should be obtained.

Care must be taken to understand how the social media site being used works. Officers must not be tempted to assume that one service provider is the same as another or that the services provided by a single provider are the same.

Whilst it is the responsibility of an individual to set privacy settings to protect against unsolicited access to their private information on a social networking site, and even though the data may be deemed published and no longer under the control of the author, it is unwise to regard it as ‘open source’ or publicly available; the author has a reasonable expectation of privacy if access controls are applied. Where privacy settings are available but not applied the data may be considered open source and an authorisation is not usually required.

If it is necessary and proportionate for the Council to covertly breach access controls, the minimum requirement is an authorisation for directed surveillance. An authorisation for the use and conduct of a CHIS is necessary if a relationship is established or maintained by the officer (i.e. the activity is more than mere reading of the site’s content). This could occur if an officer covertly asks to become a ‘friend’ of someone on a social networking site.

CHIS authorisation is only required when using an internet trading organisation such as E-Bay or Amazon Marketplace in circumstances when a covert relationship is likely to be formed. The use of disguised purchaser details in a simple, overt, electronic purchase does not require a CHIS authorisation, because no relationship is usually established at this stage.


Authorisation Procedures

Directed surveillance and the use of a CHIS can only be lawfully carried out if properly authorised, and in strict accordance with the terms of the authorisation.

Annex 2 provides a flow chart of process from application consideration to the recording of information.

Authorised Officers

Forms can only be signed by Authorised Officers identified in the Council’s Constitution. Authorised posts are listed in Appendix 1. If a Director or Head of Service wishes to add, delete or substitute a post, s/he must refer such request to the Senior Responsible Officer.

A higher level of authority is required where:

  1. the Directed Surveillance or the use or conduct of a source is likely to produce ‘confidential information’
  2. the use or conduct of a source who is a juvenile is proposed.
  3. the use or conduct of a source who is a vulnerable individual is proposed

In such cases an Authorisation can only be given by the Chief Executive or in his absence his authorised deputy.

Authorisations under RIPA are separate from delegated authority to act under the Council’s Scheme of Delegation. RIPA authorisations are for specific investigations only, and must be renewed or cancelled once the specific surveillance is complete or about to expire.

The authorisations do not lapse with time!

Training Records

Proper training is given to all Authorised Officers before they are authorised to sign any RIPA Forms. Refresher training will be provided as required. Authorised Officers must ensure that this training is cascaded to ‘Applicants’ within their service area.

Application Forms

Only the approved RIPA forms set out in this Document must be used. The Authorised Officer and/ or the Council’s Solicitor will reject any other forms used.

Directed Surveillance Forms – Appendix 5

  • Form A Application for Authority to conduct Directed Surveillance
  • Form B Review of Directed Surveillance Authority
  • Form C Renewal of Directed Surveillance Authority
  • Form D Cancellation of Directed Surveillance

CHIS Forms – Appendix 6

  • Form E Application for Authority for Conduct and Use of a ‘CHIS’
  • Form F Review of Conduct and Use of a ‘CHIS’
  • Form G Renewal of Conduct and Use of a ‘CHIS’
  • Form H Cancellation of Conduct and Use of a ‘CHIS’

Communications Data Forms – Appendix 7

  • Form I Application for Communications Data
  • Form J Application for Communications Data - SPOC Rejection Form
  • Form K Notice under Section 22(4) of RIPA
  • Form L Cancellation of Notice under Section 22(4) of RIPA - Applicant
  • Form M Cancellation of Notice under Section 22(4) of RIPA - SPOC

Grounds for Authorisation

Directed Surveillance (Forms A-D) or the Conduct and Use of the CHIS (Forms E-H) can only be authorised by the District Council only on one ground:

For the prevention or detection of crime or of preventing disorder. Local authorities can only authorise the use of directed surveillance under RIPA to prevent or detect criminal offences that are punishable whether on summary conviction or indictment by a maximum of at least 6 months’ imprisonment or are related to the underage sale of alcohol or tobacco.

The action to be authorised

A full description of the proposed surveillance operation must be provided on the form. Plans should be used, where possible, and annexed to the form, particularly where camera surveillance is authorised.

Assessing the Application Form

Before an Authorised Officer signs a Form, s/he must:

  • be mindful of this Corporate Policy & Procedures Document, the Training provided and any other guidance issued, from time to time, by the Senior Responsible Officer and/or Council’s Solicitor on such matters;
  • recognise that s/he should not be responsible for authorising investigations or operations in which they are directly involved, although it is recognised that this may sometimes be unavoidable, especially in the case of small organisations, or where it is necessary to act urgently. Where an Authorising Officer authorises such an investigation or operation the Council’s Solicitor should be advised so that the central record of authorisations can be highlighted to reflect this and the attention of a Commissioner or Inspector can be drawn to it during the next available inspection.
  • Satisfy his/herself that the RIPA authorisation is:
  1. In accordance with the law 
  2. Necessary in the circumstances of the particular case on the grounds mentioned in paragraph 4 above, and
  3. Proportionate to what it seeks to achieve 
  • Amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Directed Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources) Order 2010 (“the 2010 Order”) mean that a local authority can now only grant an authorisation under RIPA for the use of directed surveillance where the local authority is investigating particular types of criminal offences. These are criminal offences which attract a maximum custodial sentence of six months or more or criminal offences relating to the underage sale of alcohol or tobacco.

   The least intrusive method will be considered proportionate by the courts.

  • In assessing whether or not the proposed surveillance is proportionate, consider the seriousness of the matter giving rise to the proposed surveillance and the importance of taking action in respect of it; the implications of not gathering information about the matter; the effects of the proposed surveillance on the subject of the surveillance and on other persons; compare such effects against the seriousness of the matter and the implications of not taking action; indicating what, if any, other action instead of that proposed, might be taken; and confirming whether the action proposed is likely to be the most effective and the least intrusive means of obtaining the required information.
  • Take into account the risk of intrusion into the privacy of persons other than the specified subject of the surveillance (Collateral Intrusion). Measures must be taken wherever practicable to avoid or minimise (so far as is possible) collateral intrusion and the matter may be an aspect of determining proportionality;
  • Ensure authorisation includes name and address of subjects and location of activity with a plan where appropriate;
  • When signing Authorisations:
  1. ensure date and time of signature included;
  2. check that a  higher level of authority is not required (e.g. confidential information, juvenile sources or use of a vulnerable individual as a source) 
  • Set a date for review of the authorisation and review on only that date. Please ensure the authorisation is reviewed regularly, i.e. at least every 4 weeks. Put in place appropriate measures to ensure authorisation is appropriately managed and review date is complied with.
  • Ensure that any RIPA Departmental Register is duly completed, and that a copy of the RIPA Forms (and any review/cancellation of the same) is retained on the departmental file and that the original is forwarded to the Council’s Solicitor within one week of the relevant authorisation, review, renewal, cancellation or rejection.
  • Mark up the departmental file with the URN (unique reference number) on all pages when this is provided by the Council’s Solicitor.
  • In order that the authorisation meets the crime threshold for judicial approval, the Authorising Officer must be satisfied that the requisite crime threshold is satisfied. Examples of cases where the offence being investigated attracts a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months or more could include more serious criminal damage, dangerous waste dumping and serious or serial benefit fraud.

Application to a Justice of the Peace

A flowchart for an application to a Justice of the Peace seeking an Order to approve the grant of RIPA Authorisation or Notice, is provided at Appendix 3.

  • From 1 November 2012 a local authority who wishes to authorise the use of directed surveillance, acquisition of communications data and the use of a CHIS under RIPA will need to obtain an order approving the grant or renewal of an authorisation or notice from a JP (a District Judge or lay magistrate) before it can take effect. If the JP is satisfied that the statutory tests have been met and that the use of the technique is necessary and proportionate s/he will issue an order approving the grant or renewal for the use of the technique as described in the application.
  • Following approval by the Authorising Officer the first stage of the process is for the investigating officer to contact Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Services (HMCTS) administration team at the Magistrates’ Court to arrange a hearing. The Investigating Officer will provide the JP with a copy of the original RIPA authorisation and the supporting documents setting out the case. This forms the basis of the application to the JP and should contain all information that is relied upon.
  • The original RIPA authorisation should be shown to the JP but will be retained by the local authority so that it is available for inspection by the Commissioners’ Office and in the event of any legal challenge or investigation by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). The Court may wish to take a copy. In addition, the Investigating Officer will provide the JP with a partially completed Judicial application/order. “Document Appendix 4”

    The order section of this form will be completed by the JP and will be the official record of the JP’s decision. The Investigating Officer will need to obtain judicial approval for all initial RIPA authorisations/applications and renewals and the Council will need to retain a copy of the judicial application/order form after it has been signed by the JP. There is no requirement for the JP to consider either cancellations or internal reviews.
  • On the rare occasions where out of hours access to a JP is required, local arrangements should be made with the relevant HMCTS staff. In these cases, the Investigating Officer will need to provide two partially completed judicial application/order forms so that one can be retained by the JP. The Council should provide the Court with a copy of the signed judicial application/order form the next working day
  • The hearing is a legal proceeding and therefore local authority officers need to be formally designated under standing orders (under s.223 Local Government Act 1972) to appear, be sworn in and present evidence or provide information as required by the JP.
  • The hearing will be conducted in private and heard by a single JP who will read and consider the RIPA authorisation and the judicial application. S/he may have questions to clarify parts, or require additional assistance.
  • The JP will consider whether s/he is satisfied that at the time the authorisation was granted or renewed, there were reasonable grounds for believing that the authorisation or notice was necessary and proportionate. They will also consider whether there continue to be reasonable grounds. In addition, they must be satisfied that the person who granted the authority or gave the notice was an appropriate designated person within the authority and the authorisation was made in accordance with any applicable legal restrictions, for example that the crime threshold for directed surveillance has been met.
  • Following their consideration of the case, the JP will complete the order section of the Judicial application/order form recording their decision. The JP may decide to 1) approve the grant or renewal of an authorisation or notice 2) refuse to approve the grant or renewal of an authorisation or notice or 3) refuse to approve the grant or renewal and quash the authorisation or notice.
  • There is no complaint route for a judicial decision unless it was made in bad faith. Any complaints should be addressed to the Magistrates’ Advisory Committee. A local authority may only appeal a JP decision point of law by judicial review.

Additional Safeguards when Authorising a CHIS

When authorising the conduct or use of a CHIS, the Authorised Officer must also:

  • be satisfied that the conduct and/or use of the CHIS is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved;
  • be satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place for the management and oversight of the CHIS and this must address health and safety issues through a risk assessment;
  • consider the likely degree of intrusion of all those potentially affected;
  • consider any adverse impact on community confidence that may result from the use or conduct or the information obtained; and
  • ensure records contain particulars and are not available except on a need to know basis

Urgent Authorisations

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 amended the 2000 Act to make local authority authorisations subject to judicial approval. The change means that local authorities need to obtain an order approving the grant or renewal of an authorisation from a judicial authority, before it can take effect. The amendment means that local authorities are no longer able to orally authorise the use of RIPA techniques. All authorisations must be made in writing and require JP approval. The authorisation cannot commence until this has been obtained.


The Form must be reviewed in the time stated and cancelled once it is no longer needed. The ‘authorisation’ to carry out/conduct the surveillance lasts for a maximum of 3 months (from authorisation) for Directed Surveillance (e.g. a Directed Surveillance authorisation granted on 1st April 2005 expires on 30th June 2005) and 12 months (from authorisation) for a CHIS (e.g. a CHIS authorisation granted on 1st April 2005 expires on 31st March 2006). However, whether the surveillance is carried out/conducted or not, in the relevant period, does not mean the ‘authorisation’ is ‘spent’. In other words, the Forms do not expire! The forms have to be reviewed and/or cancelled (once they are no longer required)!

Urgent oral authorisation, if not already ratified in a written authorisation, will cease to have effect after 72 hours, beginning with the time when the authorisation was granted (e.g. an urgent authorisation granted at 5.00 pm on 1st June expires at 4.59 pm on 4th June).

Authorisations can be renewed in writing when the maximum period has expired. The Authorised Officer must consider the matter afresh, including taking into account the benefits of the surveillance to date, and any collateral intrusion that has occurred.

The renewal will begin on the day when the authorisation would have expired. In exceptional circumstances, renewals may be granted orally in urgent cases and last for a period of seventy-two hours.


Each department shall keep a record of equipment held and to be used for the purposes of RIPA. A copy of the list of equipment should be forwarded to the Head of Legal Services in order for the central record of all equipment held by the Council to maintained and be kept up to date.

The equipment is to be held by the individual departments should be accessible by other departments within the Council in order to carry out the functions under RIPA. Appropriate training must be given to the individual installing and using the equipment to ensure that the equipment is correctly installed and that data recorded is fit for purpose and meets the objectives of the investigation.

The impact on necessity and/or proportionality will be directed related to the type of equipment used. Any equipment used must be fit for purpose in meeting the objectives of the investigation.

It is therefore important for the authorising officer to be informed of what equipment is being used and its capabilities [i.e. range, how it's turned on manually or remotely] on the application form so that due consideration can be given when considering whether or not to grant the authorisation. The authorising officer will also need to give consideration and advise how images will be managed, for example images will not be disclosed without first speaking with the data controller to ensure compliance with the appropriate data protection requirements under the Data Protection Act 1998 and any relevant codes of practice produced by the Council.

When equipment has been installed a check should be undertaken at least every 48 hours if not daily in order to ensure it remains operational.

The Criminal Procedures Investigations Act 1996 Codes of Practice makes provision for the storage and retention of the product of the surveillance. Retention of the investigation data [i.e. images] is to be kept by the relevant department and in accordance with the Codes of Practice and any relevant policy of that Department.


Working With / Through Other Agencies

If an officer wishes to utilise the CCTV system operated by the CCTV Team a Directed Surveillance Authorisation must be obtained in writing before an approach is made to the Control Room. In exceptional circumstances an urgent authorisation may be given orally if the time that would elapse before a written authorisation can be granted would be likely to endanger life or jeopardise the investigation. An urgent authorisation will last no more than 72 hours and must be recorded in writing on the standard form as soon as practicable and the extra boxes on the form completed to explain why the authorisation was urgent.

When some other agency has been instructed on behalf of the District Council to undertake any action under RIPA, this Document and the Forms in it must be used (as per normal procedure) and the agency advised or kept informed, as necessary, of the various requirements. They must be made aware explicitly what they are authorised to do.

When some other agency (e.g. Police, HM Revenue and Customs etc): -

  • wishes to use the District Council’s resources (e.g. CCTV surveillance systems), that agency must use its own RIPA procedures and, before any Officer agrees to allow the District Council’s resources to be used for the other agency’s purposes, s/he must obtain a copy of that agency’s RIPA form for the record (a copy of which must be passed to the Council Solicitor for the (Central Register) and/or relevant extracts from the same which are sufficient for the purposes of protecting the District Council and the use of its resources;
  • wishes to use the District Council’s premises for its own RIPA action, the Officer should, normally, co-operate with the same, unless there are security or other good operational or managerial reasons as to why the District Council’s premises should not be used for the agency’s activities. Suitable insurance or other appropriate indemnities may be sought, if necessary, from the other agency for the District Council’s co- operation in the agent’s RIPA operation. In such cases, however, the District Council’s own RIPA forms should not be used as the District Council is only ‘assisting’ not being ‘involved’ in the RIPA activity of the external agency.

If the Police or other Agency wishes to use District Council resources for general surveillance, as opposed to specific RIPA operations, an appropriate letter requesting the proposed use, extent of remit, duration, who will be undertaking the general surveillance and the purpose of it must be obtained from the Police or other Agency before any District Council resources are made available for the proposed use.

If in doubt, please consult with the Senior Responsible Officer at the earliest opportunity.



Acquisition And Disclosure Of Communications Data

Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data

With effect from 5 January 2004, and in accordance with Chapter II of Part 1 of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (“the Act”), Local Authorities can authorise the acquisition and disclosure of ‘communications data’ provided that the acquisition of such data is necessary for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or preventing disorder; and proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by acquiring such data.

Important: The Council is not permitted to Intercept any Communications

The procedure is similar to that of authorisation for directed surveillance and CHIS but has extra provisions and processes. The purpose and effect of the procedure is the same i.e. to ensure proper consideration is given to permit such investigations and to provide protection against a human rights challenge. The authorising officer is called a ‘designated person’. Judicial approval for the acquisition and disclosure of communications data is required.

What is ‘Communications Data’?

Communications Data is information relating to the use of a communications service e.g. postal service or telecommunications system. It is defined by Section 21(4) of the Act and falls into three main categories:-

  • Traffic Data
  • Where a communication was made from, to whom and when
  • Service Data
  • Use made of service e.g. itemised telephone records
  • Subscriber Data
  • Information held or obtained by operator on person they provide a service to
  • Local Authorities are restricted to subscriber and service use data and only for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or preventing disorder.

Designated Person

A designated person must be at least the level of Director of equivalent.

Application Forms

All applications must be made on a standard form.


Authorisations can only authorise conduct to which Chapter II of Part I of the Act applies. In order to comply with the code, a designated person can only authorise the obtaining and disclosure of communications data if:

  • It is necessary for any of the purposes set out in Section 22(2) of the Act. (NB the Council can only authorise for the purpose set out in Section 22(2)(b) which is the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or preventing disorder); and
  • It is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by the acquisition of such data (in accordance with Section 22(5) of the Act).

Consideration must also be given to the possibility of collateral intrusion and whether any urgent timescale is justified.

Once a designated person has decided to grant an authorisation or a notice and judicial approval has been granted there are two methods:-

1) By authorisation of some person in the same relevant public authority as the designated person, whereby the relevant public authority collects the data itself (Section 22(3) of the Act). This may be appropriate in the following circumstances:

  • There is a prior agreement in place between the relevant public authority and the postal or telecommunications operator as to the appropriate mechanisms for the disclosure of communications data.
  • It is believed the investigation may be prejudiced if the postal or telecommunications operator is asked to collect the data itself;
  • The postal or telecommunications operator is not capable of collecting or retrieving the communications data.

2) By notice to the holder of the data to be acquired (Section 22(4)) which requires the operator to collect or retrieve the data. Disclosure may only be required to either the designated person or the single point of contact.

The Service provider must comply with the notice if it is reasonably practicable to do so (s.22 (6)- (8) and can be enforced to do so by civil proceedings. The postal or telecommunications service can charge for providing this information. All applications must be made on a standard form.

Oral Authority

The Council is not permitted to apply or approve orally.

Single Point of Contact (SPOC)

Notices and authorisations should be passed through a single point of contact within the Council. This should make the system operate more efficiently as the SPOC will deal with the postal or telecommunications operator on a regular basis and also be in a position to advise a designated person on the appropriateness of an authorisation or notice.

SPOCs should be in a position to:

  • Where appropriate, assess whether access to communication data is reasonably practical for the postal or telecommunications operator;
  • Advise applicants and designated person on whether communications data falls under Section 21(4)(a), (b) or (c) of the Act;
  • Provide safeguards for authentication;
  • Assess any cost and resource implications to both the public authority and the postal or telecommunications operator.

A SPOC must be accredited which involves undertaking appropriate training. The Council currently has no SPOC and does not currently envisage circumstances where it would be necessary for the Council to authorise the acquisition and disclosure of communications data. However, this aspect of the Policy will be regularly reviewed.


Authorisations and notices are only valid for one month beginning with the date on which the judicial approval is granted or the notice given. A shorter period should be specified if possible.

Renewal and Cancellation

An authorisation or notice may be renewed at any time during the month it is valid using the same procedure as used in the original application (including seeking judicial approval). A renewal takes effect on the date which the authorisation or notice it is renewing expires.

The code requires that all authorisations and notices should be cancelled by the designated person who issued it as soon as it is no longer necessary, or the conduct is no longer proportionate to which is sought to be achieved. The relevant postal or telecommunications operator should be informed of the cancellation of a notice.

Retention of Records

Applications, authorisations and notices must be retained until the Council has been audited by the Commissioner (see paragraph 9). Applications must also be retained to allow the Tribunal (see paragraph 9) to carry out its functions.

A record must be kept of:-

  • The date of which the authorisation or notice is started or cancelled;
  • Any errors that have occurred in the granting of authorisations or giving of notices.

A report and explanation of any errors must also be sent to the Commissioner as soon as is practicable. Communications data, and all copies, extracts and summaries of it, must be handled and stored securely and the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 must be observed. The Director of Safety will maintain a centrally retrievable register.

Oversight and Complaints

The Act provides for an Interception of Communications Commissioner whose remit is to provide independent oversight of the use of the powers contained in Part I and the code requires any person who uses the powers conferred by Chapter II to comply with any request made by the Commissioner to provide any information he requires to enable him to discharge his functions.

The Act also establishes an independent Tribunal to investigate and decide any case within its jurisdiction. Details of the relevant complaints procedure should be available for reference at the Council’s public offices.


Records Management 

The District Council must keep a detailed record of all authorisations; renewals, cancellations and rejections in Departments and a Central Register of all Authorisation Forms will be maintained and monitored by the Council’s Solicitor.

The following documents must be retained by the relevant Authorised Officer (or his/her designated Departmental Coordinator)

  • a copy of the Forms together with any supplementary documentation and notification of the approval given by the Authorised Officer;
  • a record of the period over which the surveillance has taken place;
  • the frequency of reviews prescribed by the Authorised Officer;
  • a record of the result of each review of the authorisation;
  • a copy of any renewal of an authorisation, together with supporting documentation submitted when the renewal was requested;
  • the date and time when any instruction was given by the Authorised Officer;
  • the Unique Reference Number for the authorisation (URN) supplied by the Council’s Solicitor

Each form will have a URN. The Council’s Solicitor will issue the relevant URN to Applicants.

Product from Directed Surveillance

Material obtained as a result of surveillance activities e.g. photographs; video film; surveillance log; officers notes, should be recorded on a record. A copy of this record should be given to the Authorised Officer to be filed with the Authorisation Form. The Applicant or Investigating Officer should retain the original on the case or investigation file. All Officers should ensure that the integrity, security and confidentiality of this material is maintained. Such material should be retained for a period of no more than five years. If the material is no longer required it should, where possible, be destroyed sooner. When it is destroyed, this fact should be recorded on the original record and be signed by the relevant Officer. A copy of the amended record should then be given to the Authorised Officer.

Records of Use and Product from a CHIS

Similarly for Directed Surveillance records, records of the use and of the materials provided by a CHIS should be maintained by the Applicant and Authorised Officer, for a period of no longer than five years in the manner set out above.

Central Register maintained by Senior Responsible Officer

Authorised Officers must forward originals of each Form to the Senior Responsible Officer c/o the Council Solicitor for the Central Register, within 1 week of the authorisation, review, renewal, cancellation or rejection. The Senior Responsible Officer will monitor the same and give appropriate guidance, from time to time, or amend this Document, as necessary. The Senior Responsible Officer and those authorised by him will have access to the Central Register which will be held in the locked strong room within the Council Solicitor’s Department.

The District Council will retain records for a period of at least three years from the ending of the authorisation. The Office of the Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) can audit/review the District Council’s policies and procedures, and individual authorisations.



Where there is an interference with the right to respect for private life and family guaranteed under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and where there is no other source of lawful authority for the interference, or if it is held not to be necessary or proportionate to the circumstances, the consequences of not obtaining or following the correct authorisation procedure may be that the action (and the evidence obtained), is held to be inadmissible by the Courts pursuant to Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Obtaining an authorisation under RIPA and following this document will ensure, therefore, that the action is carried out in accordance with the law and subject to stringent safeguards against abuse of anyone’s human rights.

Authorised Officers will be suitably trained and they must exercise their minds every time they are asked to sign a Form. They must never sign or rubber stamp Form(s) without thinking about their personal and the District Council’s responsibilities.

Any boxes not needed on the Form(s) must be clearly marked as being ‘NOT APPLICABLE’, ‘N/A’ or a line put through the same. Great care must also be taken to ensure accurate information is used and is inserted in the correct boxes. Reasons for any refusal of an application must also be kept on the form and the form retained for future audits.

Particular care must be taken when considering and confirming whether the proposed surveillance is proportionate to what it seeks to achieve. The explanation must be full and complete.

Authorised Officers, in giving approval, must state on the form, in detail, why they consider the proposed action to be necessary and proportionate.

Care must also be taken to ensure that a full description of the surveillance operation is given on the authorisation form. Appropriate plans, should be used, particularly where camera surveillance is proposed.

The use of “cut and paste” entries on Authorisations is not advised without careful attention to detail, accuracy and pertinence.

Investigating and Authorised Officers should note that the expiry date (date for cancellation) for an authorisation for Directed Surveillance lasting three months commencing, e.g. on 1 March is 31 May and not 1 June.

Authorised activities, and therefore authorisations, should be regularly reviewed, i.e. at least every 4 weeks.

For further advice and assistance on RIPA, please contact the Senior Responsible Officer. Details are provided on the front of this document.

Appendix 1

List of Authorised Officer Posts

  • Chief Executive
  • Director of Corporate Resources
  • Director of Regeneration and Neighbourhoods
  • Head of Corporate Services


Appendix 2

RIPA Flow Chart

Ripa procedure flow chart


Appendix 3

local authority procedure flow chart




Last Updated on Wednesday, July 10, 2024