Use of RIPA

Ian Duncan made this Freedom of Information request to Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

In light of recent reports on the use of RIPA by councils in
England and Wales, I am writing to enquire on the use of the RIPA
law by the Council. Specifically:

1) How many Council employees have the power to authorise the use
of RIPA, and what is their designated grade?

2) How many times has RIPA powers been used in the last 5 years? On
what dates were the requests made and by whom?

3) For what purposes was RIPA used, what type of investigation was
being undertaken? What was the motivation for using RIPA? What were
the outcomes of the RIPA requests? Please provide details for the
past 5 years.

4) Over the past 5 years, by each year, how many people have been
prosecuted as a result of evidence gathered through the use of RIPA
sanctioned investigations, and how many of these prosecutions have
led to convictions?

For all of the above where possible please provide the ethnicity
and gender of the people concerned who were under the RIPA
sanctioned investigations.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Duncan

Nailah Ukaidi, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Duncan

Thank you for your request for information, relating to the use of
RIPA.

In accordance with provisions within the Freedom of Information Act
2000, the council will respond to your request within 20 working
days saying whether we have the information that you want, and if
there will be any charges.

If for any reason we cannot provide you with the information we
will tell you why. If we need to clarify your request, we will
contact you again.

In the meantime, if you need to contact me about your enquiry
please do so quoting the above reference number using the contact
details below.

(On behalf of ) Nailah Ukaidi Principal Performance Officer (
Information & Records ) Customer Focus & Intelligence (FoI, DPA &
EIR) Corporate Performance Management Walsall Council The Civic
Centre Darwall Street Walsall WS1 1TP Tel: 01922 653585 Fax: 01922
614210

"The information in this message must be regarded as confidential
and is intended for the addressee only unless explicitly stated. If
you have received this message in error it must be deleted and the
sender notified. The views expressed in this message are personal
and not necessarily those of Walsall Council unless explicitly
stated. Please be aware that emails sent to or received from
Walsall Council may be intercepted and read by the council to
ensure compliance with council policies or regulatory obligations,
or for the purposes of essential maintenance or support of the
email system. You should also be aware that any email may be
subject of a request under Data Protection, Freedom of Information
or Environmental Information legislation and therefore could be
disclosed to third parties".

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Duncan,

Further to your request about the council's use of RIPA, I write to
apologise for the delay in providing you with a full reply. This is
partly due to our obligation to consider the application of relevant
exemptions and also due to the need to collate the information requested
over a long period of time for a range of services.

I anticipate that I will be able to provide you will a full reply within
the next 10 working days.

Regards

Nailah Ukaidi

Principal Performance Officer ( Information & Records )

Customer Focus & Intelligence (FoI, DPA & EIR)

Corporate Performance Management

Walsall Council

The Civic Centre

Darwall Street

Walsall

WS1 1TP

Tel: 01922 653585

Fax: 01922 614210

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01C859E8.D31C9690

"The information in this message must be regarded as confidential and is
intended for the addressee only unless explicitly stated. If you have
received this message in error it must be deleted and the sender notified.
The views expressed in this message are personal and not necessarily those
of Walsall Council unless explicitly stated. Please be aware that emails
sent to or received from Walsall Council may be intercepted and read by
the council to ensure compliance with council policies or regulatory
obligations, or for the purposes of essential maintenance or support of
the email system. You should also be aware that any email may be subject
of a request under Data Protection, Freedom of Information or
Environmental Information legislation and therefore could be disclosed to
third parties".

References

Visible links

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

6 Attachments

Dear Mr Duncan,

Further to your request for information regarding the use of RIPA, please
see below:

1) How many Council employees have the power to authorise the use of RIPA,
and what is their designated grade?

The Designated Authorised Officer posts are : Executive Director
Resources, Head of Internal Audit, Head of HR & Development, Head of
Public Protection and Head of Benefits.

2) How many times has RIPA powers been used in the last 5 years? On what
dates were the requests made and by whom?

. Housing benefit and or council tax benefit
investigations 213

. Trading standards (test purchasing, taxi licences, counterfeit
goods) 101

. Anti social behaviour enforcement (dome/bag cameras)
343

. Staffing issues via internal audit

20

677 instances (1 8 04 - 31 7 09) on various dates throughout each of the
financial years. Please see attached spreadsheets for dates and by which
service.

3) For what purposes was RIPA used, what type of investigation was being
undertaken? What was the motivation for using RIPA? What were the outcomes
of the RIPA requests? Please provide details for the past 5 years.

For the purposes of preventing or detecting crime or preventing disorder.
Please see question 4.

4) Over the past 5 years, by each year, how many people have been
prosecuted as a result of evidence gathered through the use of RIPA
sanctioned investigations, and how many of these prosecutions have led to
convictions?

Records are not routinely available over the last 5 years to determine the
outcome of the surveillance activity. However some information has been
recorded by the benefits service below. Steps have recently been taken to
record outcomes on a data base. However a short while ago it was
estimated that overall some 44% of cases resulted in action being taken as
a result of the surveillance activity.

A `no action' outcome however, is possible to be treated as positively and
negatively. For example:

. An allegation that a retailer is selling alcohol, cigarettes, knives
or fireworks which on investigation is unfounded ie trader operating
lawfully;

. Suspected benefit fraudsters who cancel their benefit entitlements
shortly after interview or being aware of surveillance activity,

RIPA Authorised Surveillance - Benefit Services

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|Financial|No. |Prosecution|Administration |Formal |Sanction|Total|
|Year |Authorised| |Penalty |Caution|Pending | |
|---------+----------+-----------+----------------+-------+--------+-----|
| | | | | | | |
|---------+----------+-----------+----------------+-------+--------+-----|
|2006/7 | 53 | 5 | 2 | 7 | 0 | 14 |
|---------+----------+-----------+----------------+-------+--------+-----|
|2007/8 | 58 | 4 | 2 | 8 | 5 | 19 |
|---------+----------+-----------+----------------+-------+--------+-----|
|2008/9 | 38 | | | 4 | 10 | 14 |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

Please note that the figures for 2008/9 are provisional as the vast
majority of these cases are still in the process of completion and the
sanction result is as yet un-known.

With regard to `cases that have been prosecuted as a result of evidence
gathered through the use of RIPA' - evidence gathered in this way only
forms part of the investigation and other evidence will also be obtained
throughout the investigative process to contribute to the outcome of the
case.

The Benefits Service has a Sanctions Policy, which includes Prosecution as
one of three deterrents within the policy itself, the others being Formal
Caution and an Administrative Penalty (financial penalty at 30% of the
identified fraudulent overpayment). I have included in the figures our
sanctions for each year and cases that are still awaiting sanction
activity / results. It should be noted that the figures do not include the
number of Fraud Proven cases in which it was decided not to take sanction
action against the individual apart from the recovery of the loss to the
public purse.

5) For all of the above where possible please provide the ethnicity and
gender of the people concerned who were under the RIPA sanctioned
investigations.

This information is not routinely recorded and efforts to collate would
exceed the appropriate time limit provided for under Section 12 of the
FOI Act.

Most of the information that we provide in response to Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004
requests will be subject to copyright protection. In most cases the
copyright will be owned by Walsall Council. The copyright in respect of
other information may be owned by another person or organisation, as
indicated.

You are free to use any information supplied to you in response to this
request for your own non-commercial research or private study purposes.
The information may also be used for any other purpose allowed by a
limitation or exception in copyright law, such as news reporting.
However, any other type of re-use, for example by publishing the
information in analogue or digital form, including on the internet, will
require the permission of the copyright owner.

I hope that the information provided is useful to you. However, if you are
dissatisfied, you should set out in writing your grounds for complaint and
send to: Complaints Section, Corporate Performance Management (FOI), Civic
Centre, Darwall Street, Walsall WS1 1TP.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a decision.
Please remember that, generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you
have first exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the council. The
Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information
Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9
5AF.

Nailah Ukaidi

Principal Performance Officer ( Information & Records )

Customer Focus & Intelligence (FoI, DPA & EIR)

Business Change

Resources Directorate

Walsall Council

The Civic Centre

Darwall Street

Walsall

WS1 1TP

Tel: 01922 653585

Fax: 01922 614210

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01C859E8.D31C9690

"The information in this message must be regarded as confidential and is
intended for the addressee only unless explicitly stated. If you have
received this message in error it must be deleted and the sender notified.
The views expressed in this message are personal and not necessarily those
of Walsall Council unless explicitly stated. Please be aware that emails
sent to or received from Walsall Council may be intercepted and read by
the council to ensure compliance with council policies or regulatory
obligations, or for the purposes of essential maintenance or support of
the email system. You should also be aware that any email may be subject
of a request under Data Protection, Freedom of Information or
Environmental Information legislation and therefore could be disclosed to
third parties".

References

Visible links