Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 15:37 UK

Spy law used to hunt fraudsters

CCTV camera
Councils say Ripa is used to protect the public

Councils in Devon have used powers to carry out undercover surveillance, according to a Press Association study.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act allows local authorities to secretly monitor people to see if they are engaging in criminal activity.

Devon County Council and Plymouth City Council used the act to investigate trading standards and fraud cases.

Exeter City Council and Cornwall County Council said they had not used the legislation for such purposes.

Rogue traders

Devon County Council used the act to carry out surveillance in 10 cases which related to investigations by trading standards.

It also issued over 40 notices for phone bill information to track down rogue traders and doorstep crime.

Plymouth City Council used the act to monitor people on 15 occasions to deal with fraud and anti-social behaviour.

It also used billing information in one case of benefit fraud.

The Press Association contacted 97 councils across the country to find out how they were using the powers.

The 46 who responded said they had used the act a total of 1,343 times, mainly against rogue trading, benefit fraud and anti-social behaviour like criminal damage.


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