SURVELLIANCE is being used by Brighton and Hove City Council to spy on suspected criminals in the city.

According to figures obtained by The Argus, officers at Brighton and Hove City Council authorised eight covert operations between September 2011 and August 2013.

Between September 2011 and August 2013, offences investigated were anti social behaviour, trading standards issues, criminal damage and child protection.

Additionally, 13 requests for acquisition of communications data were also approved throughout the same 23 month period. Cameras were used three times to investigate anti-social youths causing harassment, intimidation and criminal damage. Child protection officers were deployed covertly to ascertain whether a parent who had previously been violent to his children was visiting the family home and violating a court order.

The Test Purchases case involved officers observing young people who were attempting to buy age restricted products.

The strategy is authorised by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) which grants considerable powers to the council to undertake engage in surveillance work to assist in the detection of crime and prevention of fraud.

A council spokesman said: “Directed surveillance authorisations are only agreed by senior council officers as a last resort.

“We only take such action if it is proportionate and necessary for the council to perform its statutory duties in accordance with national guidelines or if there is strong evidence of criminal activity.

“In all cases the surveillance was carried out by council officers. The costs were met out of normal operational budgets and as such were not separately accounted for.”