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LibDems uncover over 10,000 RIPA yarns

Demand controls on council snooping

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Local councils are using snooping powers too readily and without proper oversight.

A survey of 180 councils by the Lib Dems has found snooping laws have been used 10,288 times in the last five years. Some 1,615 council workers can now authorise such investigations and 21 per cent of those staff are below senior management grade.

Freedom of Information requests to local councils revealed that only 9 per cent of these investigations, regulated by RIPA, led to a successful prosecution, caution or fixed-penalty notice.

Julia Goldsworthy, Lib Dem Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: “This Government sees civil liberties as little more than a temporary inconvenience. Slowly but surely freedoms have been eroded. We’re now in a situation where dog fouling is considered enough to warrant surveillance by council officials.

“When RIPA was passed, only nine organisations, including the police and security services, were allowed to use it. Now a total of 795 bodies, including all 475 local authorities, can use powers that were originally designed to prevent terrorism."

The survey found 88 cases of incorrectly crapping dogs have been investigated under RIPA regulations over the last five years.

The Lib Dems want RIPA investigations to require a magistrate's signature.

Of course council use of RIPA is a tiny fraction of its total use. In 2008 total requests increased 50 per cent to 519,260 - and just 1, 707 of these were from local councils.

The LibDems are also calling for a wider review of government legislation which infringes on our liberties. These include ID cards, restrictions on trial by jury, restrictions on the right to protest, the abolition of control orders, (which allow for house arrest, curfews and controls over who people meet or talk to,) renegotiation of the Extradition Treaty signed with the US, abolition of the ContactPoint database, restoring of the right to silence and greater regulation of CCTV. ®

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