9,000 cigarettes and 10kg of tobacco seized after council uses RIPA 'spying' powers
Almost 9,000 cigarettes and and 10kg of tobacco were seized last year after council officers deployed new spying powers to crackdown on illegal sellers.
According to figures from Durham County Council, county hall lawyers secured two convictions on the back of evidence gathered through the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in 2018/19.
According to a report for councillors, just seven RIPA authorisations were issued last year – half the number approved the year before (2017/18).
Of these, three were related to two investigations into illegal tobacco sellers, while others were used for probes into alcohol sales, counterfeit goods and potential benefits fraud.
The report added: “The reduction in the number of applications is attributed in part to the use of alternative investigative techniques not requiring RIPA authorisation.”
One defendant was given a £120 fine and told to pay £400 costs and a £30.00 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to offences following the seizure of 140 cigarettes and 0.15kg of hand rolling tobacco.
In a separate case a defendant who also pleaded guilty was sentenced to a 12-month community order, told to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and told to pay £500 costs and an £85 victim surcharge after 8,800 cigarettes and 9.35kg of hand rolling tobacco was seized.
Another offender was given a caution for the sale of counterfeit goods while an alcohol test purchase saw a business hauled before the council’s licensing committee.
The report to the county council’s Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Management Board concluded: “These successful outcomes help demonstrate that the use of surveillance powers is proportionate and necessary.”