Publication - Advice and guidance

Covert surveillance and property interference: code of practice

Published: 28 Nov 2014
Safer Communities Directorate
Part of:
Law and order

A code of practice covering the authorisation of covert human intelligence sources in accordance with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000.

Covert surveillance and property interference: code of practice


1. Being one of those listed under section 8(3) of RIP(S)A and specified in orders made by the Scottish Ministers under section 8(1).

2. See Chapter 2. It is assumed that intrusive surveillance will always result in the obtaining of private information.

3. See section 31(2) of RIP(S)A.

4. As defined in section 1(8)(a) of RIP(S)A.

5. See section 31 of RIP(S)A for full definition of residential premises and private vehicles, and note that the 2015 Order identifies a new category of surveillance to be treated as intrusive surveillance.

6. See section 1(9) of RIP(S)A.

7. Family should be treated as extending beyond the formal relationships created by marriage or civil partnership.

8. Note also that a person in police custody will have certain expectations of privacy.

9. The fact that a directed surveillance authorisation is available does not mean it is required. There may be other lawful means of obtaining personal data which do not involve directed surveillance.

10. The use of such devices is also likely to require an authorisation for property interference under the 1997 Act. See Chapter 7.

11. See section 31(1) of RIP(S)A

12. See section 31(9) of RIP(S)A

13. See section 31(1) and 31(9) of RIP(S)A.

14. See section 1(5) of RIP(S)A.

15. See section 1(4) of RIP(S)A.

16. For further information see

17. For example, by virtue of cameras or signage being clearly visible.


19. See section 31(3) of RIP(S)A.


21. See section 31(3) of RIP(S)A.

22. These statutory grounds are laid out in sections 6(3) of RIP(S)A for directed surveillance; section 10(2) of RIP(S)A for intrusive surveillance; and section 93(2) of the 1997 Act for property interference. They are detailed in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 for directed surveillance, intrusive surveillance and interference with property respectively.

23. see section 19(2) of RIP(S)A.

24. As laid out in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of this code.

25. The senior responsible officer should be a person holding the office, rank or position of an authorising officer within the relevant public authority.

26. Spiritual counselling means conversations between a person and a religious authority acting in an official capacity, where the individual being counselled is seeking or the religious authority is imparting forgiveness, absolution or the resolution of conscience in accordance with their faith.

27. Detecting crime is defined in section 31(8) of RIP(S)A and is applied to the 1997 Act by section 134 of that Act (as amended). Preventing or detecting crime goes beyond the prosecution of offenders and includes actions taken to avert, end or disrupt the commission of criminal offences.

28. This could include investigations into infectious diseases, contaminated products or the illicit sale of pharmaceuticals.

29. as defined in section 76A(10) of RIPA.

30. With the lawful authority of the country or territory in which it is being carried out and in respect of a suspected crime which falls within Article 40(7) of the Schengen Convention or which is a crime for the purposes of any other international agreement to which the UK is a party and which is specified for the purposes of section 76(A) of the 2000 Act in an order made by the Secretary of State with the consent of Scottish Ministers.

31. Being a member of a police force, NCA or HMRC.

32. Serious crime is defined in section 31(6) and (7) as crime that comprises an offence for which a person who has attained the age of twenty-one and has no previous convictions could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more, or which involves the use of violence, results in substantial financial gain or is conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose.

33. In this context, "person serving with the police" means a constable of the Police Service, a member of the police staff of the Police Service or a member of the staff of the Scottish Police Authority.

34. The information to be included in the notification to the Surveillance Commissioner is set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Notification of Authorisations etc.) (Scotland) Order 2000; SSI No: 340.

35. This notification shall include the information specified in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Notification of Authorisations etc.) (Scotland) Order 2000; SSI No: 340.

36. See section 5(2) of RIP(S)A.

37. As amended by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012

38. An authorising officer in a public authority other than the Security Service shall not issue an authorisation under Part III of the 1997 Act where the investigation or operation falls within the responsibilities of the Security Service. Where any doubt exists a public authority should confirm with the Security Service whether or not the investigation is judged to fall within Security Service responsibilities before seeking an authorisation under Part III of the 1997 Act.

39. Office premises are defined as any building or part of a building whose sole or principal use is as an office or for office purposes (which means purposes of administration, clerical work, handling money and telephone or telegraph operation).

40. See Chapter 4

41. See paragraph 5.7

42. see section 91(10) of the 1997 Act

43. See section 23 of RIP(S)A


Email: Graeme Waugh