Council uses ‘spy’ powers 12 times

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RESIDENTS were spied on by Doncaster Council a dozen times in the last year.

Figures revealed in a report to members of the authority’s audit committee reveal it used special powers to launch covert missions 12 times.

The surveillance operations meant the council could take action against a counterfeit clothing trader and cut compensation bills it was facing claims for.

But on four of the occasions the council admits it got no new information from the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

The figures show the first operation took place in January 2011 and involved a child protection case.

The information required was not obtained, said the report.

Two cases were pursued in March.

One was a personal injury claimant thought to be exaggerating a medical condition.

Evidence obtained led to the settlement being greatly reduced, said the report.

The second was an investigation into counterfeit clothing. Property was seized and a formal caution given.

April saw surveillance used in cases of underage alcohol sales and counterfeit goods. Evidence was obtained for enforcement action.

June saw two operations. One was a child protection issue which obtained no useful information.

The second was an investigation into underage alcohol sales and helped enforcement of the law, said the report.

July saw operations against suspected fly tippers and test purchase operations. No information was uncovered.

August saw action on doorstep crime, which was described as obtaining useful information.

In October, officers spied for information about a possible fraudulent civil claim for damages.

The council said it was able to demonstrate the person it was observing deliberately exaggerated her claim and it saved about £90,000 in damages and costs.

Another suspected claim for damages was targeted for surveillance in November, but the report said no useful information was obtained.

Details of another operation which began January and is ongoing were not outlined.

Councillors asked for an annual reports about surveillance use.

The report said: “The council uses the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to conduct covert surveillance to investigate matters that the council has responsibility to take action against.”