A Freedom of Information Request by Big Brother Watch has revealed that Bolton council hired a private investigator to secretly conduct surveillance.
The council used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and defended the outsourcing of surveillance by describing the case as “a serious non-accidental injury to a child” as part of care proceedings.
Campaign groups have become increasingly worried about the use of invasive laws such as RIPA and the potential risk for abuse, including the use of private investigators to spy on people.
Big Brother Watch said:
“The government has acted to control surveillance by local councils but this research shows more than ever before public bodies are using private detectives to do their snooping.”
Defending the action, a spokesperson for Bolton council said:
“RIPA legislation allows us to use covert surveillance in very limited circumstances.
“We have only used this power once in the last five years in relation to care proceedings. These proceedings are used to safeguard the wellbeing of children.”
Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles said:
“Such powers can only be used for serious crimes, and require a magistrates’ warrant.
“It is totally unacceptable if councils are trying to sidestep these important new checks and they should be held to account for acting outside the law.”