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Councils pay for investigators.

Byline: Camilla Turner Reporter camilla.turner@walesonline.co.uk

CARDIFF council has spent more than any other local authority in Wales on private investigators, the Echo can reveal.

Of all the councils which responded to a Freedom of Information request, Cardiff council paid out the most to private investigators during the past two years.

In total, they spent PS3,700 on a private investigator called PG Barlett, who acted for the council in 21 separate cases between April 2012 and April 2014.

A council spokesman said this sum related to the cost of "tracing individuals and serving legal notices on them personally".

The spokesman added: "This cost relates to the recovery of funds, which is owed to the council through court proceedings and debt recovery.

"The use of these 'private investigators' is purely for this purpose, to track them down and serve the legal notice."

Meanwhile, Bridgend council spent PS1,500 on a private investigator to spy on a council employee.

The local authority said that it was to "investigate allegations of a breach of the authority's employment procedures".

The council confirmed that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which allows local authorities to authorise officers to spy on people in order to gather evidence of crime and disorder, was used.

A spokesman for Bridgend council said: "The council always thoroughly investigates any allegation made against a member of staff."

He added that: "The authority works within a number of sensitive areas, meaning it is occasionally more appropriate to use the services of an external agency."

Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said that councils were given surveillance powers to help them tackle "the most serious of crimes, not for them to snoop on people for minor infringements".

She called on the Government to "step in to stop this happening" and to change the law so that private investigators cannot be used without a court's approval and only for serious crime.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 9, 2014
Words:324
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