Covert powers used in ‘fraud’ case

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Contentious covert surveillance legislation has been used by officers at a Lancashire council to put a suspected benefits cheat through the courts.

Audit committee councillors at Wyre Council heard use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) has been used in the past year to gather evidence along with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the suspected fraud case.

The case is currently proceeding through the legal system, committee members were told.

RIPA allows certain public bodies, including councils, to use covert methods to gather information about suspected offences.

The council said occasions when it uses the power, which are “already low in number”, would decrease even further as a result of new legislation introduced at the start of this month limiting use of RIPA to the investigation of serious crimes only.