Covert surveillance used sparingly to beat benefit fraudsters
SPECIAL powers allowing councils to use covert surveillance to track potential wrongdoers have been used six times in the last five years in Stroud district.
Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), Stroud District Council has used the stealthy methods in four benefit fraud cases, one noise nuisance case and one food waste disposal case since 2007.
Gloucestershire County Council had used the discretionary powers on 17 occasions in the same time frame.
A spokesman for Stroud District Council said the surveillance was used in order to prove or disprove the commission of criminal offences, only using the powers on rare occasions when there were good reasons to be concerned.
“Examples include offences relating to housing and council tax benefit awards where there is suspicion of failure to report a change in circumstances such as a working partner joining a household, where a claimant fails to report that they were working, or if a claimant lived somewhere other than the claim address,” he said.
“In these circumstances we may need to undertake covert surveillance, and the use of photographic evidence will of course strengthen our case. As mentioned, we use these powers only when we have very good reasons to do so, hence over the past decade all but one of our investigations using surveillance have resulted in successful prosecution or sanctions against the person under investigation.”