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The ten councils who used the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) the most between 2008 and 2011, according to details from Big Brother Watch:
- Kent - 319
- New Castle upon Tyne - 290
- Dundee City - 263
- Bromley - 206
- Walsall - 202
- Birmingham - 194
- Sandwell - 179
- Wolverhampton - 168
- Rotherham - 160
- Brent - 139
The civil liberties group Big Brother Watch says its report on the use of terror laws by local authorities was only the "tip of the iceberg". A number of public bodies, including the Royal Mail and Ofsted, refused to give details of activities under the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act.
Big Brother Watch is now calling for a thorough review of RIPA powers. Legislation in May meant councils now have to apply to magistrates to use RIPA. The civil liberties group says this condition should be applied to all public bodies intending to use the same powers.
Local authorities used powers designed to combat terrorism to pursue cases of dog fouling, fly tipping and breaching smoking bans, according to a new report. The civil liberties group Big Brother Watch said 9,607 surveillance operations had been carried out by councils, often for trivial offences.
The report showed 26 councils used the powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on suspected cases of dog fouling, and 7 authorities investigated suspected breaches of the smoking ban.
Big Brother Watch obtained details from 345 local authorities across the UK under the Freedom of Information Act. Among the cases highlighted in the report was:
- Suffolk County Council, which was said to have used powers to make test purchases of a puppy, dating agency services and at a house of horrors
- Stockton Borough Council was said to have used powers for investigations into a fraudulent escort agency and the movement of pigs
- Councils used it on 550 occasions to try to catch fly-tippers
A report today shows that local councils carried out more than 9000 surveillance operations over 3 years to investigate minor offences such as dog fouling or breaching smoking bans. Big Brother Watch says it highlights the extent to which public bodies are abusing laws designed to combat terrorism.