RIPSA - Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act

RIPSA was introduced to make sure that the surveillance of a person(s) was properly regulated, and to regulate information obtained from third parties when the subject of the activity is not aware of either the surveillance or information gathering.

In some circumstances, it may be necessary for our employees, in the course of their duties, to make observations of a person in a covert manner, ie without that person’s knowledge, or to instruct third parties to do so on the our behalf.  By their nature, actions of this sort are potentially intrusive (in the ordinary sense of the word) and may give rise to legal challenge as a potential breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 (the right to respect for private and family life). 

RIPSA provides a legal framework for authorising surveillance undertaken by local authorities.

RIPSA controls:

  • Directed surveillance
  • Use of covert human intelligence sources; and
  • Intrusive surveillance 

Directed Surveillance

Directed surveillance is defined as surveillance that is covert ie the person is unaware that it is or may be taking place, but not intrusive, undertaken “for the purposes of a specific investigation or operation” and in such a manner as is likely to result in the obtaining of private information about a person. Read the pre-surveillance checklist (PDF).

Covert Human Intelligence Source

A covert human intelligence source (CHIS) is defined as a person who establishes or maintains a personal or other relationship with another person for the covert purpose of facilitating anything that:

i) covertly uses such a relationship to obtain information or to provide access to any information to another person; or       
ii) covertly discloses information obtained by the use of such a relationship or as a consequence of the existence of such a relationship.

Intrusive Surveillance

Local authorities are not permitted to carry out intrusive surveillance.

Intrusive surveillance is covert and targeted at anything taking place on residential premises or in a private vehicle and involves the use of a surveillance device or an individual on the premises or in the vehicle or if not on the premises or in the vehicle it nevertheless provides information of the same quality as if it were.

Policy and Authorisation Procedure

View or download a copy of our Policy and Authorisation Procedure on Covert Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources (PDF) and our list of authorised officers (PDF).

These powers are monitored by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, and you can view more on the Commissioners website about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 and Human Rights Act 1998.

Codes of Practice

RIP(S)A Revised Scottish Codes of Practice were approved in November 2014.

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (PDF)
Covert Surveillance and Property Interference (PDF)

Annual Reports

You can view the RIPSA Annual Reports in pdf format for 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.

Freedom of Information Requests

The Council sometimes receives requests for further information about the exercise of their powers under RIPSA. Many of the queries made seek similar information and we would encourage you to look at our responses to earlier queries and our annual reports before making your own query. Previous replies to freedom of
information requests in relation to RIPSA can be accessed by using the links below:

16/04/12        20/11/12        23/04/13       25/03/13       05/08/13        14/11/14        14/12/15     20/05/16

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