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If the controls don’t work, it’s probably out of control – UK

Filed under: General — MurrayBacon @ 8:59 am Sat 31st October 2009

Funny how the controls on employing paperboys seem to be so much more stringent than the controls on spying on citizens?

Everything not forbidden, is compulsory! (postulated by physics theorist Murray Gell-Mann)
In human behavior, over large populations, everything not impossible, will happen? Murphy McMannus
Can you even remember back to 1984?

Anti-terror powers used to spy on paperboys in UK

A council used anti-terror powers to spy on paperboys to check whether a village newsagent had not obtained work permits for them.
By John Bingham
Published: 4:03PM GMT 05 Dec 2008
Cambridgeshire County Council sent undercover officers to monitor whether eight children delivering papers in Melbourn, Cambs, were doing their rounds without the correct paperwork.
Campaigners accused the council of acting like a “jumped up version of the A-Team” by using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to target the former postmistress Rashmi Solanki and her husband Dips, who run the local shop.

The couple received a six-month conditional discharge at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court for employing delivery boys without a valid permit after what they claimed was a “mix-up” over paperwork.
It is the latest in a series of incidents where local authorities have used surveillance powers to investigate minor matters from dog fouling to underage smoking.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed recently that councils carried out almost 10,000 spying missions last year under the act which was introduced to help the police fight terrorism and crime in 2000.
One council used the powers to investigate a family it wrongly suspected of breaking rules on school catchment areas and to monitor whether fishermen were gathering shellfish illegally. Another recently carried out surveillance to check whether a nursery was selling pot plants unlawfully.
The Conservatives have criticised what they call Labour’s “snooper state” and promised to ban the use of such powers except for the most serious crimes.
Andrew Lansley, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, said: “These powers should only be used for the scope they were intended, which is to tackle serious crime and terrorism.”
Mrs Solanki, who now has a criminal record, said that she only learnt in court that an officer had been watching her shop from a car across the road.
“It’s like something out of a film,” she said.
“Who do they think they are? They should only do such things for a serious crime. We’re innocent people trying to make an honest living.”
The court heard that while that applications had been sent to the children’s school for approval some had not been signed.
“It was a complete waste of everyone’s time and came out of confusion over paperwork,” Mrs Solanki said.
“At the end of the day it could have all been easily sorted out if the council had just spoken to us.”
Mark Wallace, campaign director for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is crazy that this council have used the full force of anti-terror laws against paperboys.
“Local residents want decent services and low council tax, not a jumped up version of the A-Team.”

Half of councils use anti-terror laws to spy on ‘rubbish bin crimes’

More than half of councils are using anti-terror laws to spy on families suspected of “bin crimes”, it has emerged.
By Matthew Moore
Published: 1:15AM GMT 01 Nov 2008
Their surveillance tactics include hiding secret cameras on streets and even in neighbouring homes to catch householders putting their rubbish out on the wrong day.
Some local authorities – including West Lindsey District Council in Lincolnshire and Southwark District Council in London – are using the powers to hide cameras on lamp posts, in tin cans, or even in the homes of other neighbours in order to catch people who put their rubbish bins out early.

Defense of RIPA by Home Office Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism

Misconceptions about RIPA

Misunderstandings about RIPA and its use – your questions answered.
RIPA is an anti-terrorism legislation
It’s not. RIPA legislates for and regulates the use of a range of covert techniques for a range of purposes. The more intrusive of these powers (such as interception) are limited to law enforcement and intelligence agencies and can be used to investigate serious crime as well as terrorism.
Other less intrusive powers such as directed surveillance or access to communications data can be used by a greater number of public authorities for a wider range of purposes, including the prevention and detection of crime generally.
Local authorities and councils are wrongly using anti-terrorism powers
Recent stories in the media have often misrepresented RIPA and what parliament agreed that local authorities can do under the legislation. Parliament gave permission to a range of public authorities to use covert investigatory powers under RIPA, where they need them to carry out their statutory functions.
Under RIPA, local authorities are able to use a far more restricted range of investigatory techniques than intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
They are limited to using the least intrusive types of communications data; directed surveillance (which means covert surveillance in public places) and covert human intelligence sources (such as informants), and only for detecting or preventing crime and preventing disorder where it is necessary and proportionate for them to do so.
For example, trading standards departments are responsible for investigating and prosecuting rogue traders and other scams. Local authorities also deal with people who are claiming housing benefits which they are not entitled to, in other words, people who commit benefits fraud. It is for individual authorities to decide in each case whether it is necessary and proportionate to make use of the powers in the specific circumstances.
Local authorities cannot carry out intrusive surveillance, or seek warrants for interception. Nor are they able to access the most intrusive form of communications data, namely traffic data.
RIPA powers can be used by local councils on ‘trivial matters’
There are strict rules to protect people from unnecessary or inappropriate intrusion and any use of the powers must be both necessary and proportionate to the crime being investigated. Where individuals believe powers have been used inappropriately, they can take their case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.
The Local Government Association and the Communities and Local Government Minister have each written to all local councils to ensure that their use of RIPA powers is necessary and proportionate as required by the legislation.
Q: Why do so many public authorities require RIPA powers and why don’t you list them all?
We are reviewing the public authorities able to use directed surveillance, covert human intelligence sources and communications data under RIPA. This is so we can satisfy ourselves that they need the powers to enable them to carry out their statutory duties and can bring forward Consolidating Orders setting out clear lists of all the public authorities able to use these techniques.
As the Home Secretary announced on 16 December 2008, we will be carrying out a full public consultation exercise on the list of public authorities able to use techniques regulated in RIPA. The consultation will also cover the purposes for which the techniques can be used and the ranks at which they can be authorised.


  1. Jeez, if if just a matter of paperwork why not send somebody round to help them do it? The most likely reason for people to not do stuff like that is that it seems too hard. Bloody civil service boffins spend their lives filling in forms and assume everybody finds bureaucratic jargon easy to deal with.

    Meanwhile the faint murmur one can hear is Orwell reminding us from his grave…

    “I told you so, I told you so…”

    Comment by gwallan — Sat 31st October 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  2. Dear Gwallan,
    you are dead right. It wasn’t the newsagents that didn’t follow the rules, but more the schoolteachers that couldn’t be bothered to do something, that isn’t really their job to do anyway – but it was the newsagent that got bitten.

    It reminds me of customers having to chase the familycaught every step of the way, just to do the basic job that they are overpaid to do.

    Customer choice, by quality of service and price would quickly sort out these Government-beneficiaries.

    Cheers, MurrayBacon.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Sat 31st October 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  3. The inspectors who check local authorities have been inconsistent with their advice :- for example

    Underage test purchase exercises have been carried out by LAs for decades and they were originally told that they did not fall within the RIPA authorisation regime (note RIPA does not provide the powers, it provides the framework for approving use of surveillance techniques) – the commisiioner has now suddenly changed his mind and said they do.

    LAs are law enforcement bodies – e.g. they have a duty to enforce the Trade Marks Act where offences carry up to 10 years imprisonment.

    Police officers can be out on the street on their own after only 6 months training and half the detectives in the Met do not have the full qualifications to do the job – Environamental Health and Trading Standards Officers have 2 – 3 years of degree level training and will restricted in their actions until qualified. Who then is better controlled?

    Comment by Ian — Wed 25th November 2009 @ 1:03 am

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