SURVEILLANCE has been used twice this year by North Ayrshire Council.

Officials used the method to investigate an alleged theft, which led to criminal charges.

Underage test purchasing also took place to monitor the sale of tobacco.

The last time surveillance was undertaken by the local authority before 2018 was in 2014 – on only one occasion.

A report was presented to North Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet last week. It said: “The council uses surveillance rarely, and requests for surveillance are closely scrutinised to ensure surveillance is necessary and proportionate.”

The report said: “This year, two authorisations have been sought. The first was relative to alleged theft and the evidence uncovered in the investigation has resulted in criminal charges. The second more recent authorisation related to the use of juvenile test-purchasing in the sale of age-restricted tobacco products.”

Two investigative techniques are open to the council for use. One is ‘directed surveillance,’ which involves watching people without their knowledge. The second is ‘covert human intelligence sources,’ which sees a third party obtaining information in secret.