Proposed new laws on surveillance will prevent EHOs from effectively carrying out noise nuisance investigations, the CIEH has warned.
Monitoring sound levels without the consent of the householder concerned as part of a noise nuisance investigation could amount to ‘surveillance’ under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
The Protections of Freedoms Bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords, requires surveillance operations to be approved by a magistrate. This could lead to noise investigations becoming more time-consuming for cash-strapped local authorities.
An amendment to the Bill put forward by Baroness Hamwee, who is also a CIEH vice president, would have exempted RIPA investigations undertaken under Part 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Noise Act 1996.
But Baroness Stowell, the government spokesperson in the House of Lords, said the amendment was unnecessary.
She said: ‘Surveillance conducted and governed under RIPA relates to private information only. It requires that when public authorities obtain private information covertly, they do so only when it is necessary and proportionate, in line with our right to privacy.
‘However, the privacy implications of someone making a loud noise will usually be such that RIPA is not engaged.’
CIEH principal policy officer Howard Price said: ‘Her comments are a mixture of sophistry and misunderstanding. Noise investigations certainly do engage RIPA and her officials admit it. Our main disagreement is just about how often.’
Baroness Hamwee’s amendment was withdrawn, but the Home Office has indicated it will meet with the CIEH to discuss possible revisions of the RIPA code of practice.
No date for the meeting has been set, but it is expected to take place after the Bill becomes law.