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The Radio Investigation Service

The Radio Investigation Service was basically a bunch of Radio amateurs being paid to "Police" the airwaves, their chosen hobby, whatever next? It would be like getting the Police to investigate complaints against themselves...................hang on a minute.........we DO have that don't we!

The Radiocommunications Agency (sic) WAS an executive agency of the UK Department of Trade and Industry, and governed our hobby. Their enforcement arm was the R.I.S., who policed the hobby. We have been unable to find a single active member of the R.I.S. who is not a licenced radio amateur, and this brings about the questionable situation of radio amateurs being paid to "police" their chosen hobby.
Armed with more rights of forcible entry and seizure of goods than the real police have when dealing with criminals, the RIS went about their task with zealous enthusiasm and hardly an impartial attitude.
A very unhealthy situation when you consider that in the past, the R.I.S. have completed their tasks with all the skill and accuracy of a government forensic scientist!

These tasks are now under the guidance of Ofcom, and since they have assumed command, there has been a marked decrease in not only malicious prosecutions, but prosecutions of all kinds. This fact is reflected in the published statistics.

This is an interesting excerpt from current legislation as published by Ofcom:-

The Wireless Telegraphy (Content of Transmission) Regulations 1988 makes it an offence to send a message, communication or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an obscene or menacing character. In considering such cases, it is important to remember that the courts need evidence that the language used in the alleged offence is worse than that encountered in everyday life.

Well, that says it all really, swearing is so common these days that it is regularly heard on broadcast radio, TV, and films etc. Just go to your local pub and you will hear all swear words in everyday common usage, so this piece of legislation is virtually useless! Please see more on this aspect on the History Of Swearing page HERE.

The majority of the remainder of this page is no longer applicable in the 21st Century, but left on the site as a reminder of what we had to endure in the 80s & 90s.

Impartial & Unbiased

Far from being impartial and open minded in their attitude, they go about their task with a definite bias that is usually fuelled by letters, petitions, and campaigns organised by your fellow radio amateurs who only call in the RIS for the "KILL"

Boot to the door policy

It would not be so bad if we only had these semi-qualified R.I.S. people to contend with, but what happens in the real world is that every other radio ham is there to pick you up on the slightest infringement of their perception of the rules. Not only do they log these events, they get together and actually do the job of the R.I.S. for them, presenting them with their “evidence” and leaving the R.I.S. to obtain the search warrant and apply their boots to your front door. The usual time for a visit seems to be between the hours of 22.00 and 00.00 on Sundays, most possibly for the overtime.

Hardly Surprising

It is hardly surprising that we find that an anagram of RADIO INVESTIGATION SERVICE is EVIDENCE ORIGINATORS - A VISIT!

The way it's done

What happens is this:- A group of radio amateurs decide on a victim to blame any current or imagined repeater abuse on, and then go about collecting evidence to prove the point. This evidence is collected and then collated by The Amateur Radio Observation Society, a bunch of volunteers galvanized into action by magazine publishers, RSGB Limited. 'The evidence' is then forwarded to the R.I.S., and if it is sufficiently convincing, a search warrant is obtained - followed by a VISIT!


The R.I.S. enjoy more rights of seizure of your goods than do the police when investigating criminal matters. Specifically, they can seize any thing that has or could be, in their opinion, used in the commission of an offence under relevant acts of parliament. The upshot of this is that they march off with a mountain of equipment, even things that are in no way related to radio. One fully documented seizure included new and sealed items that obviously had not and could not be used! In all cases we know of, the vast majority of the seized equipment is ordered to be returned at court hearing irrespective of verdicts. 

Sensible or not?

The A.R.O.S. think that they represent the “sensible” wing of the hobby, after all, all they want to do is to be radio policemen, but there are others that want to go further. It is a great pity that this hobby seems to attract social misfits and low achievers who get some kind of gratification from living in their own little world behind their microphones. Bear in mind that these people are just radio amateurs, and try to imagine why anyone should get so incensed as to threaten life and property!

But it has happened, and not only on the odd occasion.
The so-called “sensible” radio amateurs have taken the law into their own hands, and for the minor act of mucking about on a radio, the “sensible” radio hams have been involved in the following :-

  • Bricks Through Windows
  • (lit) Marine Distress Flares Through Windows
  • Paint Stripper Over Cars
  • Threats of paint stripper over cars
  • Vandalism Of Property and Buildings
  • Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm
  • Threats of Physical Violence in Writing
  • Malicious Telephone Calls (police action already!)
  • False Accusations Of Wrong Doing to 0800 Police Informant Lines
  • Death Threats In Writing
  • Threats of violence in writing
  • Assault With a Deadly Rockery (Strange but true!)
  • Damage to antennae
  • Damage to radios
  • Damage to cars
  • Common assault

After this list was compiled, we received threats by a former West Midlands Police Sergeant to use his underworld contacts to arrange the theft of cars belonging to LPWS members! We kid you not.

See our Spot The Loony page for more on this despicable character and the antics that saw his employment change from Police Sergeant to railway ticket collector.

No secret is made of the procedure your fellow radio enthusiasts employ to gather evidence against you, and The Radio Society of Great Britain Limited publish documents to give guidelines on what, and how to do it. Read the document an insight to what the opposition are looking for. It may prove invaluable!

A Guide For Repeater Abusers in the UK

Reproduced from Radio Communication, a publication of R.S.G.B.Limited, June 1997.
(now superseded)

The following document has been put together following many discussions and consultations between the Chairman of the Repeater Management Committee and the Radiocommunications Agency and has been fully endorsed by the Radiocommunications Agency, Radio Investigation Service (RIS).
Repeater abuse has become the amateur band problem most frequently reported to both the R.S.G.B.Limited and the Radiocommunications Agency's Radio Investigation Service.
The RIS has always offered to help where there is evidence of serious repeater abuse and there have been some successful prosecutions in recent years. However, the RIS has to observe priorities set by the DTI Ministers - to attend first to interference to safety of life services (such as air traffic control, fire, police and ambulance), second, to interference to business users; third to other radio users including domestic radio and TV interference, amateur and CB.
Thus, if we are going to make the best use of the resources the RIS can devote to us, we have to help as much as possible. 
That is why we how have a REPEATER ABUSE CO-ORDINATOR who can liaise with repeater keepers and RIS HQ.
It is very sad that a few of the many amateur repeaters provided by the voluntary efforts of their dedicated groups should suffer abuse by a tiny minority of misguided individuals.
Repeaters that cover densely populated areas provide the largest audience for these "ego-trippers" and hence the greatest opportunity for disruption and annoyance.
Once the psychology of these hooligans is appreciated it follows that the easiest way to deal with them is to completely ignore them, whatever the provocation, and carry on as normal a conversation as possible, making no direct or indirect references to the problems being experienced.
This practice is also advised by the RA who pointed out that by responding to abuse, amateurs are contravening their own licence conditions.
It has been shown time and again that when legitimate users do not respond and are strong enough to over-ride the interference, the abuser will soon give up as he is no longer succeeding in his "wind-up"!

If, on the other hand, the abuser is stronger than the users then the only option is for the station that is being blocked out to sign off as soon as possible. At this stage other users of the repeater can make a positive contribution.
If another user knows that he has the ability to maintain a contact through the repeater then he should use the repeater and so prevent the abuser from capturing it.

Surely this is just as illegal as the original interference, the suggestion to cause 'Deliberate Interference', or are we missing something here?
After about three transmissions from each participant, the abuser realises that he is making no headway and decides to try and annoy someone else on another repeater or starts taking his radio to pieces to find out whether it is faulty! <YOU WISH!

If the abuser is not ignored and the abuse allowed to fester over a period of time then more abusers will "be attracted". Given three of four abusers with strong signals the repeater will no longer be available for normal traffic; the repeater group has a serious problem on its hands.
It is in this situation that the Keeper and his group must take decisive action to curtail the abuse. This could mean turning the repeater off for a period since it will most likely be operating outside its licensing conditions and the closedown lets the situation cool off.
Repeater keepers often co-operate with the RIS in tackling abuse, but in extreme cases it may mean complying with a request to close the repeater down. This action may seem unfair on the majority of responsible users, but it shows we mean business in trying to stop abuse.
If it continues after resumption then we and the RIS are in a better position to act. Once established, abuse by a number of individuals is particularly difficult to stamp out entirely and in serious cases, takes a lot of effort by users, the repeater group committee and the RIS over a considerable length of time. 
In the meantime the users of the repeater become more frustrated by the situation. Many of them eventually going away in disgust or one or two may take the law into their own hands and track the offender down and confront him or her. 
This may seem like a good idea on the face of it but in a significant number of cases has resulted in the loss of a carefully arranged RIS operation against the suspected offender. [or even a punch up the bracket!]
It can, for instance, result in the culprit becoming mobile, which can greatly increase the difficulty of evidence collection. 
In the early stages the problem of abuse can be best dealt with by peer pressure within the amateur radio fraternity. If prompt action is taken at an early stage, a new recruit to amateur radio may be made, but where the problem is allowed to go unchecked it will escalate out of control.
Once there is a group of entrenched regular offenders the problem cannot be completely solved without the RIS being fully involved.
So what can you do as a repeater user?

First note the advice given above as how to respond on air when faced with abuse (see also the R.S.G.B.Limited Call Book and Information Directory, page 94).
Although the responsibility for the repeater rests legally with the keeper, he needs the help of all users. Group members especially must accept joint responsibility with the keeper.
It is important that good communications between keeper, group members and users is maintained, so that a concerted effort is made to deal with the problem as soon as it manifests itself.
Many repeater groups produce a regular newsletter and provide local guidance notes, which are most helpful in educating users. All users should report problems to the keeper as well as the R.S.G.B.Limited in writing giving as much information as possible.
It is no good moaning about the abuse on air or even mentioning it if you are not prepared to help by following the guidance laid down. Neither is it any use picking up the telephone and moaning to R.S.G.B.Limited HQ or the RIS.
The best advice is to ensure that you help not only by the way you respond on air when abuse occurs but also by gathering information about the abuse which will ultimately be passed to the RIS by the R.S.G.B.Limited Repeater Management Committee Abuse Co-ordinator.
It is absolutely imperative to ensure that all users ignore abusers and do not exacerbate the situation by joining in and making references to the abuse. 
Where this occurs it is important that such licencees are made aware of their misdemeanour by means of a diplomatic phone call or other discrete off-air method as soon as possible. (Brick through the window?)

In some cases a friendly letter may be appropriate. (especially when wrapped round a brick) It should be explained that to take part in conversations with operators using funny voices or no call sign makes them also guilty of abuse and of breaking the terms of their licence, in that they are permitted only to talk to licenced amateur operators!
Instead they should be persuaded to log the evidence by listening on the input frequency and by direction finding, i.e. to make a positive contribution towards solving the problem.
It is recognised that it is difficult even for skilled DF-ers to locate and obtain valid evidence against some abusers in a short time scale. 
It has to be said that there are others who simply will not respond to a private warning, verbal or otherwise, and their actions will make any abuse situation worse.
At this stage the same sort of evidence should be gathered against them as for the hardcore abuser. In due course it should be passed on to the Abuse Co-ordinator. Gathering information about the more obnoxious offenders can be even more difficulty. It requires a deal of diligence and co-ordinated effort in accurate recording and collation.
It can take some time to obtain results especially if the authorities become involved. There is no substitute for careful logging, tape-recording, and positive DF-ing by more than one team. Noting any definite characteristics of the offender, or the pattern of operation can also provide vital clues, and assist with the planning of later operations by the RIS.
As in all detective work it is the gathering and piecing together of a multitude of, sometimes apparently meaningless items of information that eventually yields important clues. That is why it is of the utmost importance to note and pass on as much information as possible.
What evidence should be gathered? 

Dates, times, frequencies, pattern of operation, suspected location of offender, strength of signals, details of equipment used by you, bearings obtained with your equipment. An original tape recording of the abuse can be most useful in enabling identification of offenders. In fact almost anything can be of importance including the conversation of the offenders.
A reporting form together with notes for guidance is available from R.S.G.B.Limited Ltd. HQ on request.
Once a case is an established problem it will have been reported to the RIS by the Co-ordinator. The RIS will gather their own evidence and although this is time consuming, it does usually avoid amateur licencees having to appear in court as prosecution witnesses. 

Where amateurs can greatly assist the RIS is by pointing its officers in the right direction and so assisting them to make the best use of their valuable time. 
The R.S.G.B.Limited's Repeater Management Committee Abuse Co-ordinator will liaise with the RIS at both local and national level as well as with the repeater groups involved. He needs to know the complete picture so he wants your active co-operation to make this effective!
All written reports should be sent to the RMC Abuse Co-Ordinator, c/o R.S.G.B.Limited Ltd. HQ, where they will be acknowledged and passed to the co-ordinator.
If the co-ordinator needs further information he will contact you directly, but he is very busy so he will not make contact just to acknowledge your information. 
Remember it is important not to take any direct action or encourage anyone else to take action against alleged offenders other than to collect useful evidence. 
It is important that successful prosecutions are taken against as many as possible of the persistent offenders, and that the prosecutions achieve maximum publicity!
Finally, remember the Golden Rules 


Operate as normally as possible through the repeater in the face of abuse. 
Form teams for DF-ing and logging. Make formal written records of what you find and hear.
Keep the originals and pass copies to the keeper and RMC Abuse Co-ordinator at R.S.G.B.Limited HQ for action.
Keep away from known abusers otherwise they may disappear once they realise they have been identified. 


Respond in any way at any time to abuse on the air - not even when someone seems to be blocking your transmission out of the repeater.
Confront alleged offenders.
Take the law into your own hands.

RIS in action!

Here is something from the uk.radio.amateur news group. It demonstrates the principle of RIS bias, quite dramatically. As you can see from this independent eye witness report, the RIS are indeed biased in certain directions.

It is a fact that these radios were illegal to own or use, and as they are, they are not licensable, but as the author so correctly notes, the same goes for the majority of ex PMR equipment on sale at the same rally. So why were the CB radios seized, and the equally illegal ex PMR radios left for sale?

Would this have been the case if the RIS were not radio amateurs?


I thought you might like to hear about something I saw at Elvaston today... on the first swing around I spotted a whole box of 'historically interesting' CB radios dating from around the late seventies... I had a look through and some of them were in fairly nice cosmetic condition, maybe even collector's items... nonetheless, I moved on and on the next time around, was fairly bemused to see a gentleman squatting on the ground, flanked by two bored looking uniformed policemen and filling in a form on an RA pad headed 'Notice Of Seizure'. Needless to say, the radios were no longer in the box.

At the same time there were hundreds of ex-PMR radios on show, most undoubtedly still crystalled, for frequencies that their owners could not legally use them on, but these did not appear to excite any interest whatsoever. I don't understand the logic behind the turn of the decade decision to completely outlaw non - UK 11m radios even for legitimate, converted use on 10m. If people are caught using them on 11m, then fair enough, treat them as you would treat someone using a VHF PMR transceiver for unlicensed (or unlicensable) operation, but I see no problem with a set sitting in a box waiting to be converted, or simply not being used. I strongly suspect that the decision was made because the RA didn't want to spend any more time certifying converted radios. The fact is that they should never have been required to do that in the first place. It should have been left up to us to ensure compliance and to demonstrate it when required as it is with all the other kit that we move from other bands to our frequencies.

The ironic thing is that the multimode sets in particular are much easier to convert to 10m by virtue of their having unrestricted PLL ICs - and much more useful to us by virtue of the fact that they -are- multimodes - and if we were still allowed to use them there would be a lot more of them taken out of circulation from 11m and put to legitimate use on 10m. The first Amateur HF set I ever owned was a converted UK FM CB and it got me my first HF contact (with HB9IAM, I have the card on the wall in front of me) but, Oh, how much better it would have been if it had been a multimode.

Regards... Graham, M0ADR.

LPWS Comment:-  The RIS were all licensed radio amateurs and as such applied the law in a unique and totally biased way, it is true to say that it is, and was illegal to own the CB radios as they were capable of transmitting on frequencies for which there is/was no license available. BUT, as Graham pointed out, that also would be the case for ex PMR sets sold for modification. Furthermore, it is a fact that many, if not all HF transmitters are also capable of transmitting well out of the UK allocated frequencies, also making ownership illegal - AND to a certain extent you can include many 2Mtr and 70Cm transceivers as well, as we know only too well that the mere cutting of a link opens up the full transmit ability.

The problem with the former RIS was that they decided to apply the law in a draconian fashion in some respects, and completely ignore exactly the same legislation in others. The law should be equally and impartially applied to everyone, not in this biased and bizarre way when ownership of a CB radio is met with uniformed Police and seizure, when the very same law is totally ignored for others.

To demonstrate this, to listen to anything on a scanner other than Radio Amateurs or public broadcasts, is illegal. A significant number of people can usually be found at Airports and especially at Air Shows, with scanners tuned to the Air Traffic Control. This widespread but illegal activity was completely ignored by the RIS, but right within their remit. So why the draconian action taken against Radio Amateurs and to a certain extent Pirate Broadcasters, but no action taken against people publicly flouting the law?

The same "blind eye" approach was taken in ignoring the sale use, and advertising of illegal cordless phones, Baby Monitors, and the plethora of other gadgets that the law says were not only illegal to use, but illegal to own?

The full weight of the law, and then some, if you are a radio amateur - bugger all if you are a member of the public.

It is reassuring to be able to report that this heavy handed and discriminatory action has been reigned in quite a lot since OFCOM took over. It was a truly sinister way to wield considerable power within their chosen hobby.

      "Wicked" Willy Bodwen ex Sgt. 3116 (forced to retire & not a laughing policeman!)

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