RIPA Part 2 Inspections: Common Criticisms by the OSC

examThe Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) is responsible for overseeing the use of covert surveillance by designated public authorities by carrying out regular inspections. (Appendix E of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner’s Annual Report (2012-13) lists those whom the OSC inspects and how often.) In the UK the inspections check councils’ compliance with Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000(RIPA) (and in Scotland The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 (RIP(S)A)) for use directed surveillance, intrusive surveillance and covert human intelligence sources (CHIS).

As part of our provision of tailored in house training, we have to read OSC inspection reports. The following is a list of common mistakes highlighted by the OSC. They are not attributable to any particular organisation.


  • Use of out of date forms
  • No Unique Reference Number (URN)
  • Not amending forms so that only those grounds are present which are available to the public authority e.g. councils – preventing or detecting crime
  • Pre completed forms
  • Use of cut and paste in boxes/repetitive narrative


  • Rubber stamping – no real thought given to authorisation
  • Necessity, proportionality and collateral intrusion not fully understood/considered by investigators and authorisers
  • Likelihood of obtaining Confidential Information not fully considered
  • Some ‘open source’ internet research is being conducted which may actually meet the criteria of Directed Surveillance and therefore require authorisation
  • Confusion re: reviews and renewals
  • Lack of understanding of when a person is a CHIS
  • Two many Authorising Officers
  • Authorising Officers are not making adequate provision for destruction of product that is collateral intrusion or of no value to the operation
  • Several authorities are pooling resources but then not obtaining authorisations and keeping records in relation to a proper designated authority
  • Confusion about interference with property powers under Police Act 
  • NB councils cannot do this
  • More robust management and quality assurance procedures required 


  • Central records not compliant with the Code of Practice
  • Inadequate monitoring, recording and audit of surveillance equipment
  • Inadequate handling and storage of surveillance product/evidence 


  • Inadequate/no RIPA policy
  • In adequate guidance document (or out of date)
  • No CCTV protocol/procedure
  • OSC may wish to visit your CCTV control room


  • Inadequate training
  • Lack of regular training/refresher trainer
  • Inadequate record of those who have been trained
  • OSC may ask to see recent training materials

If you are considering refresher training for RIPA investigators and authorisers, please see our full program of RIPA Courses and our online webinars. We can also deliver tailored in house training at your premises.

Ever since the changes to the council surveillance regime, which came into force on 1st November 2012, the OSC has taken an interest in ensuring councils do not authorise surveillance under RIPA for “minor offences.” In addition they have been keen to ensure that council’s have an agreed protocol and procedure for presenting authorisation applications to the Magistrates’ Courts. Finally where surveillance needs to be done outside the scope of RIPA then a Non RIPA authorisation policy should be implemented and followed.

Do your RIPA documents need revision? Avoid re inventing the wheel! Our RIPA Policy and Procedures Toolkit gives you a standard policy as well as forms (with detailed notes to assist completion) for authorising RIPA and non-RIPA surveillance. Over 200 different organisations have bought this document (available on CD as well).

Author: actnowtraining

Act Now Training is Europe's leading provider of information governance training, serving government agencies, multinational corporations, financial institutions, and corporate law firms. Our associates have decades of information governance experience. We pride ourselves on delivering high quality training that is practical and makes the complex simple. Our extensive programme ranges from short webinars and one day workshops through to higher level practitioner certificate courses delivered online or in the classroom.

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