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Directed Surveillance


What is it?
Directed Surveillance is covert but not intrusive. It is carried out for a specific investigation or operation and is likely to yield private information about a person who may or may not be specifically identified for the purposes of that investigation or operation.  An immediate response to events or circumstances, such that it is not reasonably practicable to seek authorisation under RIPA 2000, would not be classed as Directed Surveillance.

Basis in law
Under section 28 of in Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and the associated code of practice, a designated person may authorise directed surveillance. They must be satisfied that:

How directed surveillance is authorised
A directed surveillance authorisation is issued internally by a designated person. An authorisation ceases to have effect, unless it has been renewed or cancelled, at the end of a period of three months beginning with the time at which it took effect. Directed surveillance authorisations may be renewed for a period of six months beginning with the date on which it would have ceased to have effect but for the renewal. This is three months for the MOD.

Urgent oral authorisations can be granted but, unless renewed, they cease to have effect after 72 hours beginning with the time when the authorisation was granted.

How is this used in Practice?
Directed surveillance could be use to monitor, for example, a terrorist suspect’s movements in public to establish information about their pattern of life in order to protect national security.

Directed surveillance is one of the least intrusive surveillance techniques available to the agencies but proper consideration must still be given to the necessity and proportionality of the activity.  The Commissioner requires that specific consideration be given to ensure that the privacy being invaded is outweighed by the necessity of the information to be obtained and that the information sought cannot be obtained through less intrusive means.

Last updated: 23 Jan 16