Extra training for surveillance team

NEWS: News.
NEWS: News.
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Council staff who authorise covert surveillance on rogue traders in Doncaster are to be given more training after a Government inspection.

A judge who carried out the last inspection under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act for the Office of Surveillance Commissioners said Doncaster Council should be commended for its management of the powers.

They are mainly used to carry out test purchases at licensed establishments with underage children and to obtain evidence against traders selling counterfeit goods.

But the Assistant Commissioner, Judge Norman Jones QC, said it was ‘surprising’ the associated documents for orders under the act were ‘not of the highest quality’.

He has advised the council to secure professional training for use of RIPA legislation.

“Improvements are likely to be achieved by providing the officers with up-to-date professional training and thereafter regular refresher training,” said the judge.

Legal officer Helen Potts told members of the council’s audit committee, meeting yesterday at the Civic Offices, that external training was being arranged.

Mrs Potts said the number of recommendations raised by the commissioner was ‘quite encouraging’ compared to other authorities and an action plan would be ‘quite simply achieved’.

The legislation was amended last year to allow covert surveillance only where a criminal offence can be prevented or is punishable by a sentence of at least six months, or it involves children being sold alcohol or tobacco.

All applications have to be approved by a senior legal officer at the council before going to a magistrate before they can be used.

Audit committee chair Coun Ros Jones said: “It’s quite pleasing to see how well it is being managed.”

The powers have been used more than 40 times in the past three years, most often by trading standards officers. Six were for child protection issues.