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Covert investigations focussed on tobacco sales

Created on 07/08/2020 @ 07:08
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Covert surveillance was undertaken by Powys County Council on four occasions in the area during the last financial year, it has emerged.

The council is permitted to undertake cover surveillance where it is investigating criminal offences that could attract a custodial sentence of six months or more, or where the criminal offences relate to the underage sale of alcohol or tobacco.

In all four cases of covert surveillance undertaken by the county council involved illegal tobacco products being investigated by Powys Trading Standards.

However, in a report that went to county councillors yesterday from Councillor Graham Breeze,  the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Governance and Engagement, it transpired that an Office of Surveillance Commissioners Inspection undertaken in August last year found that some recommendations in a 2016 report were still to be actioned by the council.

These were updating of policy documents and refresher training.

The report states: "RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) provides a statutory framework regulating the use of directed surveillance and the conduct of covert human intelligence sources (informants or undercover officers) by public authorities.

"The Act requires public authorities, including local authorities, to use covert investigation techniques in a way that is necessary, proportionate and
compatible with human rights."

All RIPA operations have to be signed by an authorising officer and a magistrate.

The Commissioner's report also stated: The report noted that all applications for directed surveillance were “extremely well formed and contained a detailed rationale as to why the use of covert surveillance was necessary to achieve the required objectives..”

The report also said that RIPA investigations planned for February this year were cancelled due to weather and flooding in the area.

"A centralised record of authorisations and magistrate’s approval continues to be maintained, which enables the reporting into the Council’s use of directed surveillance, and the provision of relevant document for inspection<' said the report.

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