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Government announces new measures to strengthen the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)

Government announces new measures to strengthen the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 04 November 2009

The level of authorisation required by local authorities to sign off investigatory techniques will be raised to prevent them being used for trivial matters under new plans announced by the Policing Minister David Hanson MP today.

Following a public consultation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), a senior executive now has to approve how and when the techniques are used to protect the public and fight crime.

Under the new measures, elected councillors in each local authority are also required to oversee the use of RIPA. In addition, training for local authority authorising officers and bespoke written guidance on how local authorities should use RIPA will be issued.

New codes of practice make it clear to all public authorities who can make authorisations under RIPA that they cannot be used for minor matters.

The Home Office received 222 responses to the consultation launched in April and will now bring forward legislation to implement the changes. The orders and the related codes of practice will include measures to:

• clarify the test of necessity and proportionality so techniques will not be used to investigate dog fouling or people putting bins out a day early;
• raise the rank of authorising officer for RIPA techniques in local authorities to senior executive at a minimum of ‘Director’ level;
• give elected councillors a role in overseeing the way local authorities use covert investigatory techniques;
• require constituents’ communications with MPs on constituency business to be treated as confidential information, and therefore subject to authorisation by a higher rank of officer; and
• treat covert surveillance of legal consultations as ‘intrusive’ rather than ‘directed’ surveillance, meaning it can only be carried out by a very limited number of public authorities.

Many of the investigations that rely on the techniques regulated by RIPA are vital to protecting public safety - not just for serious crime and terrorism - and they can also make a real difference to people’s everyday lives. For example, by stopping rogue traders or trapping fly tippers who dump tonnes of rubbish on an industrial scale.

Policing Minister David Hanson MP said:

“We made it clear that we would not tolerate the misuse of RIPA and these new measures show that we are taking the necessary action to stop the small number of cases where this has happened.

“There is no doubt that a wide range of public authorities need to be able to authorise surveillance under RIPA in order to protect us from those who would do us harm. But it is equally clear that public authorities must respect our right to privacy and only use techniques under RIPA when it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

“The measures outlined in the Summary of Responses will ensure that this balance is achieved.”
The Codes of Practice replace the existing Codes of Practice on Covert Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources. They provide greater clarity on when the use of RIPA techniques would be proportionate. They make it clear RIPA should not be used in relation to trivial offences and they provide examples so everyone can understand how and when these techniques should be used.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The RIPA consultation and responses can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-2009-ripa/

2. The review of RIPA invited views on:

• which public authorities should be able to authorise key investigatory techniques, such as the use of communications data or covert surveillance in public places, under RIPA;

• the purposes for which these investigatory techniques should be used;

• the option of raising the rank of the local authority employee authorising the use of investigatory techniques to senior executive; and

• whether elected councillors should also play a role in the authorisation.

3. For more information, please contact Home Office Press Office newsdesk on 020 7035 3535.

Contacts:

Home Office Press Office
Phone: 020 7035 3535
NDS.HO@coi.gsi.gov.uk

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