Claims are being made that a controversial piece of legislation, originally used to tackle terrorism, is being exploited and misused by local police for petty crimes.
The Regulation of Investigatory Power (Scotland) Act (RIPSA), was introduced in 2000 giving the police, security services and HM Revenue & Customs the permission to carry out certain forms of surveillance, including wire-tapping and bugging.
Its original intention was to combat terrorism, internet crime and paedophilia but in recent years the use of RIPSA has rapidly increased. Whereas originally just nine organisations were authorised to use it, that number has now risen to almost 1000 and it is reportedly used by the BBC, Prison Service, Royal Mail, Ofsted and many others.
In 2010 it was revealed that the BBC were using for licensing infringement, while earlier this month the National Union of Journalists told parliament that police misuse of the act to snoop on journalists and their sources is “systemic and institutionalised”.
Between 2009 and 2011, there were 9,600 occasions across the UK (including 900 in Scotland) where local councils were given permission to use the law, said to be for misdemeanours including dog fouling, breaching the smoking ban and catching fly tippers.
After discovering that there had been 19,390 applications to Ministers for surveillance warrants, Herald Scotland was unable to obtain the figure for the number approvals for in-house applications from Police Scotland.
In 2000, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal was established alongside RIPSA to hear complaints about surveillance by public bodies. Between 2000 and 2009, 956 complaints were made but only four were upheld.