OXFORDSHIRE County Council has used so-called “snooping” powers 12 times in nine months under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), a council report revealed.

The council’s use of the act is detailed in a report to the Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny Committee today.

The investigations were carried out by the council’s trading standards team between September 2011 and this May.

Six operations focused on the suspected sale of alcohol, tobacco and fireworks to underage teenagers and another targeted the suspected sale of counterfeit goods.

The council confirmed that surveillance cameras had been used to gather evidence in cases where it was suspected that doorstep crime was taking place.

A spokesman said: “The surveillance involved fitting a covert camera to the outside of a property of a doorstep crime victim, with their consent, to monitor visitors to the home.

“This is done where we suspect the victim is vulnerable to doorstep crime and they may be targeted again, or where the suspect is likely to return and we require identification evidence.”

The council said it was unable to provide details about cases or the results of its investigations.