The Department of the Environment (DoE) is authorising the “directed surveillance” of individuals - mostly through the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) enforcement division - dozens of times every year.
The Sentinel has learned that between 2006 and November 2013, 240 “directed surveillance” authorisations were issued by the DoE.
These mostly relate to the DVA enforcement section, which is responsible for enforcing a wide range of legislation pertaining to goods vehicles, buses and taxis.
The division also checks private cars and tractors.
Between 2008 and 2012, several authorisations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) legislation were also issued to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s (NIEA) Environmental Crime Unit.
Once again these were mostly “directed surveillance” authorisations, however, there were also nine instances where the interception or acquisition of communications data were authorised.
The DoE acknowleged the activity in response to a Freedom of Information request stating: “The authorisations were issued by the NIEA Environmental Crime Unit and DVA Compliance & Roadside Enforcement.”
The Sentinel has previously revealed the extent of the PSNI’s use of RIPA to access people’s mobile phone data.
Between 2006/7 and 2010/11 the PSNI spent over £1m accessing gaining communications data under Chapter II of Part I of RIPA.
And between April 2009 and May 2012 the PSNI applied for permission to intercept people’s telephone calls, emails or letters and acquire their telephone billing or subscriber details on 13,848 occasions.