Circular 020/2014: Revised RIPA part 2 codes of practice

Draws attention to the publication of two revised codes of practice under Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA)



  • broad subject: police service
  • sub category: police investigations
  • implementation date: 10/12/2014
  • from: Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT)
  • for more information contact: RIPA team at
  • addressed to: chief police officers of England and Wales
  • copies are being sent to:
    • chief officers of non-Police Act forces; police and crime commissioners
    • Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
    • Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
    • Association of Chief Police Officers of England Wales and Northern Ireland
    • College of Policing
    • National Policing Lead for RIPA
    • National Policing Lead for Undercover policing
    • National Crime Agency
    • HM Revenue and Customs
    • Border Force
    • HM Inspectorate of Constabulary

This circular draws attention to the publication of 2 revised codes of practice under Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Updated versions of the Covert Surveillance and Property Interference code of practice and the Covert Human Intelligence Sources code of practice came into force on 10 December 2014. Copies of the codes are available.

The codes have been updated to reflect recent legislative changes to local authority use of covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) and covert surveillance, and to procedures for deploying undercover law enforcement officers, as well as to incorporate a number of updates and clarifications the need for which has come to our attention since the Codes were last updated in 2010. The main changes are set out below.

Local Authorities

In England and Wales, local authorities can now only use directed surveillance to investigate offences which attract sentences of six months or more or relate to the underage sale of alcohol or tobacco.

In addition, in all cases, decisions by local authorities to grant or renew the authorisation of covert techniques will take effect only when an order approving the authorisation has been granted by a Justice of the Peace.

These changes were introduced by the RIPA (Directed Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources) (Amendment) Order 2012 and Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 respectively.

Undercover Officers

Since January 2014, all deployments of undercover officers must be authorised by an Assistant Chief Constable (or equivalent) and notified to the Office of Surveillance Commissioners. In addition, Chief Constables (or equivalent) must authorise deployments which run beyond 12 months and seek prior approval from the Office of Surveillance Commissioners. The level of authority for emergency (very short term) authorisations has been raised from Inspector to Superintendent (or equivalent).

These changes were contained in the RIPA (Covert Human Intelligence Sources: Relevant Sources) Order 2013 and came into force on 1 January 2014.

In addition, the CHIS Code of Practice now states that all police officers deployed as a relevant source in England and Wales must comply with the College of Policing Code of Ethics (laid before Parliament on 15 July 2014).

The revised CHIS Code also includes specific guidance to law enforcement agencies on seeking an authorisation when developing a cover persona (legend building), if the activity may interfere with an individual’s Article 8 rights.

Published 15 December 2014