Directed Survelliance

Is covert, but not intrusive, and undertaken

  • for a specific investigation or operation
  • in a manner likely to obtain private information about an individual (whether or not that person is specifically targeted for purposes of an investigation); and
  • not as an immediate response to events which would otherwise make seeking authorisation under the Act unreasonable eg spotting something suspicious and continuing to observe it.

Local Authorities can carry out covert surveillance in places other than residential premises or private vehicles. Directed surveillance can only be authorised to prevent or detect criminal offences which have a maximum custodial sentence of six months or more or relate to the underage sale of alcohol or tobacco. It cannot be authorised for the purpose of preventing disorder unless this involves criminal offences which have a maximum custodial sentence of six months or more or relate to the underage sale of alcohol or tobacco.

If during the course of an investigation it becomes clear that the activity being investigated is not a criminal offence of sufficient seriousness, directed surveillance should cease. If an authorisation is in force it should be cancelled.

The Code of Practice on covert surveillance clarifies that routine patrols, observations at ‘hotspots’, immediate response to events and overt use of CCTV do not require authorisation.