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Agenda item

Outcome of Inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners

-           Chief Executive to report.

Minutes:

Councillor Akhtar, Deputy Leader, introduced a report by the Director of Legal and Democratic Services, which detailed the findings on an inspection report by His Honour Norman Jones QC of the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) in respect of its Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) policy and procedures, which related to the Council’s use of covert surveillance in the carrying out of its functions and duties.

 

During the Inspection, His Honour Jones spoke to the Senior Responsible Officer, Jacqueline Collins, the Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act Co-ordinator, Stuart Fletcher (Service Manager, Commercial and Governance, Legal Services) and three officers involved with Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act operationally, namely Alan Pogorzelec (Business Regulation Manager), Lewis Coates (Community Protection Manager) and Shawn Senior (Fraud Investigation Manager).

 

The Inspector examined the relevant Policy and completed forms and found these to be largely commendable, although there was some room for improvement. The Inspector commented that the management of Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act was appropriate, but relevant processes could be improved by more robust procedures in respect of quality control.

 

The Inspector stated that it was encouraging that the previous recommendations had been fully discharged and that the Council had developed an impressive training programme.

 

Although the Council did not currently use those parts of Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act involving establishing covert relationship with suspects, it was recommended by the Inspector that the Council maintain and develop the ability to manage these situations and that the future training programme should reflect this. This was due to the likelihood in the future of using these techniques for the investigation in particular involving social network sites, such as Trading Standards investigations involving illegally counterfeited goods.

 

The Inspector commented that the Council had established a good relationship with the Magistrates’ Court in dealing with applications for judicial approval. Further, the Inspector found that the Council policy was fit for purpose and practical, and contained excellent prompts and guidance for officers.  The Inspector was impressed that the improvements reported at the last inspection continue to be made.

 

The recommendations from the report were in respect of establishing a better “chasing up” procedure for the collation of forms from different services, to address weaknesses in the documentation through future training for investigating and authorising officers, to ensure all authorising officers attended Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act corporate training courses, and to ensure that Councillors were kept informed of Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act activity.

 

These recommendations have been accepted and acted upon by the Senior Responsible Officer formulating an action plan to incorporate the following:-

 

·                A new “chasing up” procedure established and included in the Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act Policy.

 

·                Training which had been organised which all appropriate officers were to attend.

 

·                Councillors to be updated in terms of the number of applications, via the Deputy Leader’s meeting. In relation to the Policy and appropriateness of Council Regulation of Investigatory of Powers Act operation generally, as recommended by the new Code of Practice, Councillors to be kept informed by means of an annual report to Cabinet.

 

Resolved:-  (1) That the outcomes of the inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners be noted.

 

(2) That the implementation of the recommendations from the Inspector’s report be approved.

Supporting documents: