Scottish surveillance powers given to wrong managers

Public sector middle-managers were incorrectly handed surveillance powers and authorisation to deploy children and vulnerable people undercover because of an 'administrative error�? by the Scottish Government.

Graeme Waugh, of the Scottish Governments Safer Communities police division, is investigating whether or not local councils authorised covert activity under the incorrect guidelines. Image: Ian Georgeson

The acquisition of confidential information - such as health records, communications with parliamentarians and journalists’ sources - should have required the authorisation of top level executives, but this power was given to less senior personnel.

Middle-managers have also had the power to deploy juveniles and vulnerable people as “covert human intelligence sources” for more than a year, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has told MSPs.

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Juvenile sources could be deployed to “befriend” shopkeepers suspected of selling alcohol to children, for example.

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Vulnerable sources, such as people in community care due to mental or other disabilities, age or illness, may be used to uncover harm or exploitation.

Graeme Waugh, of the Scottish Government’s Safer Communities police division, has written to 32 councils and six public bodies seeking assurance none of them have conducted covert activity using incorrect codes of practice issued in 2015.