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Why surveillance is used

Surveillance is used to gather intelligence on criminal and terrorist activity. Invasive surveillance techniques are only used in investigating serious crime.

The purpose of police and other public authority surveillance activity is to:

  • ensure community safety
  • secure evidence so offenders may be brought before the courts
  • gather intelligence on criminal activity and threats to the public

Today’s criminals are quick to exploit new technologies that will keep them one step ahead of the law. Public authorities need surveillance capabilities to be able to apprehend these increasingly sophisticated offenders.

Using surveillance in court

Surveillance is often the fastest and most cost-effective way of getting the evidence needed to bring criminals before the courts.

However, it’s important to note that there are different types of information gathered from surveillance activity, and not all types can be used in court as evidence.

Types of information gathered includes: 

  • surveillance data –  information obtained from observing a person or place.  This can be used to get someone arrested, charged and can be used in court as evidence.
  • intercepted information – the actual contents of a communication, for example a taped telephone conversation.  The law doesn’t allow to be used in court as evidence.

Is surveillance effective?

In 1996 and 1997, lawful interception of communications played a crucial part in police operations leading to:

  • 1200 arrests
  • seizure of nearly three tonnes of class A drugs, and 112 tonnes of other drugs, with a combined street value of over £600 million
  • seizure of over 450 firearms







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