Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides:
Article 8.1 "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
Article 8.2 There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of rights and freedoms of others."
This right is not absolute, it is a qualified right. This means that in certain circumstances the County Council may interfere with the right if the interference is:
Covert Surveillance may constitute an interference with the right to respect for private and family life. To ensure that such an action is not unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1998, the County Council needs to meet the requirements of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
In simple terms, RIPA requires the County Council to have in place procedures to ensure that when required, surveillance is seen as necessary and is properly authorised. Surveillance is usually a last resort that an investigator will use to prove or disprove an allegation.
RIPA sets out a statutory mechanism for authorising covert surveillance and the use of covert human intelligence sources. RIPA seeks to ensure that any interference with an individual's rights under Article 8 is necessary and proportionate and that, therefore, there is a balance between public interest and an individual's human rights.
Covert surveillance will only be undertaken where there is no reasonable and effective alternative means of achieving the desired objective.