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Use of Surveillance Powers

Surveillance powers

Public authorities have powers of surveillance which they can use to investigate serious criminal offences. Covert surveillance occurs where the subject of the surveillance is unaware that it is happening. As a result, private information may be acquired.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, codes of practice, and oversight

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) sets out a framework to regulate how certain types of covert surveillance are carried out.  It aims to ensure that human rights concerns are addressed at all times, and to ensure that potentially invasive surveillance is carried out only where it is a necessary and proportionate response to the situation.   Codes of practice issued by the Home Office help public authorities assess and understand whether, and in what circumstances, it is appropriate to use covert techniques.  The codes also provide guidance on what procedures need to be followed in each case.

At national level, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office provides independent oversight of the use of investigatory powers by public authorities.  Its purpose is to oversee how these powers are used, taking account of the public interest and ensuring that investigations are conducted in accordance with the law.

Council Surveillance

Across the Eastbourne and Lewes areas we use covert surveillance only by exception and as a last resort.  All officers considering covert surveillance must follow a detailed process which requires senior officers of the council to review and authorise the activity before seeking approval from a magistrate.  Approval is dependent on a number of factors, primarily whether the proposed surveillance is necessary and proportionate.

Our authorising officers are Tim Whelan, Director of Service Delivery; and Peter Finnis, Assistant Director for Corporate Governance.

Need more information? 

The Council’s policies on the use of surveillance are available for download below.

If you have any queries about these policies, please contact our RIPA Monitoring Officer, Oliver Dixon, at

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