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Council in top 10 to use spy powers

Picture for council spying story (w120912-9b)

Picture for council spying story (w120912-9b)

BASSETLAW Council is in the top 10 of authorities to use anti-terror surveillance powers to spy on yobs - a new report has revealed.

The council has used the powers 152 times in the last three years to clamp down on anti-social behaviour, including hate crimes, alcohol abuse and neighbour disputes.

Officers are allowed to use hidden cameras under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) law to investigate and gather intelligence on suspected illegal activity.

A Bassetlaw Council spokesman said RIPA is an invaluable tool in taking a proactive stance against community disorder.

“When it comes to tackling anti-social behaviour we will not shy away from using the full range of powers at our disposal,” he said.

“We will only use RIPA where the council has enforcement responsibilities and it has only been used for collecting evidence in anti-social behaviour cases.”

The spokesman added that all surveillance requests have to be authorised by a member of the corporate management team.

“The requests have to be appropriate and proportionate to the situation. It is primarily used where there is difficulty in obtaining evidence,” he said.

“ Surveillance is only carried out by members of the Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team and we do not use any private contractors.”

Bassetlaw Council leader Coun Simon Greaves said the use of RIPA powers should be ‘ratcheted up’ to tackle anti-social behaviour.

“It is very clear that people want to see the council taking a more proactive stance against anti-social behaviour and I think we should be racheting up using the powers to maximum effect to take tough action.”

Campaign group Big Brother Watch, which published the A Legacy of Suspicion report, called for a ‘comprehensive overhaul’ of RIPA laws.

“The legislative framework of surveillance does not offer proper safeguards against abuse or transparency,” the report stated.

“It is absurd that the regulation of the test purchase of a puppy falls under the same legislation that governs when security services can intercept communications.”

The report added: “It is dangerous that organisations do not even have to confirm if, how or why they have used these powers when they potentially involve very intrusive surveillance.”

To read the full report and breakdown of findings from all local authorities across the UK, visit www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk.

 

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