ADDITIONAL stricter controls on Kirklees Council’s ability to use special surveillance powers have come into force.
The council can now only use surveillance for “serious” criminality and may need the backing of magistrates to carry it out.
The council has previously carried out such investigations to detect anti-social behaviour and investigate human defecation in a public area.
But they also deployed it to detect drug dealing and prostitution in a residential property.
Figures show that over the last three years there have been nine authorisations by Kirklees Council under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
In 2011 there were four for directed surveillance – covert work to obtain private information about a person – for the following:
Two cases to investigate alleged harassment, one to investigate alleged fraud and one to investigate alleged anti-social behaviour.
In 2012 five directed surveillance authorisations were agreed for the following:
Three investigations of alleged prostitution and/or drug dealing in residential premises, one investigation to investigate human defecation on a footpath and one case of anti-social behaviour.
Two of the 2012 authorisations required the approval of Kirklees magistrates.
There have been no surveillance investigations so far in 2013 and there have been no covert human intelligence sources – informants – and none in relation to communications data in the last three years.
The coalition government has restricted the use of RIPA powers by councils, unless they are signed off by a magistrate and could stop serious crime.
A higher threshold means directed surveillance could only be granted if it will to detect a criminal offence punishable by at least six months in prison.
Further changes to surveillance powers mean Kirklees Council is now responsible for any Kirklees-based Trading Standards surveillance work.
There have been no requests made in relation to Trading Standards matters so far this year.