A recent article published by Sky News has shed light on a swath of publicly funded organisations that have, it is claimed, potentially commissioned illegal surveillance.
Evidenced, acquired by civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, through the implementation of a Freedom of Information Act has shown that £3.9 million has been spent by public bodies over the last two years. According to the data, twenty-seven councils and a government department have paid private investigators to spy on their behalf. One of the many public organisations that has paid private firms to spy for them is the Department for Transport.
Snooping on Staff
The data attained by Big Brother Watch, has found that some of the surreptitious tasks assigned by government bodies to private investigators included ask for their own staff to be placed under surveillance.
A total of twenty-eight organizations, using the powers under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), paid private firms to undertake surveillance between 2010 and 2012. However, there are ten councils and four public authorities that have paid private firms to undertake surveillance that was not covered by RIPA. In simpler terms this means that they commissioned potentially illegal activity.
There were two public authorities and two councils that paid other public bodies to spy on their behalf at a cost of £7,600. The four councils in Caephilly, Dudley, Leicestershire, and York used private investigators to monitor their own staff. The city of York Council denied using private investigators and said that it “had used an external fraud team.”
A director of Big Brother Watch, Nick Pickles said, “This research has uncovered cases where it looks like the law has not been followed and it’s essential they are urgently investigated. Unlike the US, British law isn’t strong enough to stop evidence obtained by illegal surveillance being used in court and the punishments for people deliberately flouting the law are trivial.” He goes on to say that the UK needs a proper licensing system for private investigators.
Big Brothers Watch recommended that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 “should be strengthened to stop unauthorised surveillance by raising the bar about what evidence can be used in legal proceedings.” BBW also wants private investigator licensing to be strengthened and introduce a way to regulate contracted investigators.
In Favour of License Conflict International is a highly experienced and prestigious private investigation company. The team has a has a wealth of experience dealing with corporate, commercial and private investigations from a diverse range of clients, including multinational corporations, law firms and high net worth individuals. They conduct their investigations within the guidelines of RIPA. Along with Nick Pickles’ statement about proper licensing, Conflict International states that they are also “in favour of the introduction of licensing our industry.”