The Grim Ripa: Local councils authorising 11 covert surveillance operations a day

New research conducted by Big Brother Watch – the non-partisan grassroots campaign fighting intrusions on our privacy and freedom – reveals that councils in Great Britain have authorised over 8,500 RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) operations in the past two years

To read the full report – The Grim Ripa – including a complete break-down of authorisations by councils in the periods 2008-09 and 2009-10, please click this link

Top lines from the report include:

  • 372 local authorities in Great Britain have conducted RIPA surveillance operations in 8,575 cases since 1st April 2008
  • Councils alone have carried out over eleven surveillance operations every day in England, Scotland and Wales over the past two years
  • Newcastle-upon-Tyne is the worst local authority in the country for RIPA investigations, having spied on their residents 231 times in two years. West Berkshire and Walsall follow closely behind with 228 and 215 authorisations respectively since 1st April 2008.
  • Authorities have used covert surveillance for reasons including spying on their own employees, dog fouling, people breaking the smoking ban and even the test purchase of a puppy!

Research conducted by Big Brother Watch has revealed that 372 local councils in England, Scotland and Wales have authorised 8,575 Directed Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Source authorisations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and RIPSA in the period 1st April 2008 – 31st March 2010. Dividing the total number of authorisations (8,575) by the number of days (730), this is the equivalent of councils authorising over 11 covert surveillance operations a day in the past two years.

In the coalition document released last week, the new government pledged to "ban the use of powers in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) by councils, unless they are signed off by a magistrate and required for stopping serious crime." Although Big Brother Watch welcome a restriction on the use of RIPA, we believe that councils should not have these powers at all. If an alleged wrongdoing is serious enough to merit covert surveillance, then it should be investigated by the police. Our research has found that innocent people have been placed under surveillance for minor crimes ranging from littering and dog fouling to smoking in a public place.

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:

"Now that the absurd and excessive use of RIPA surveillance has been revealed, these powers have to be taken away from Councils. The Coalition Government plan to force councils to get warrants before snooping on us is good, but doesn’t go far enough. If the offence is serious enough to merit covert surveillance, then it should be in the hands of the police."

To read the full report – The Grim Ripa – including a complete break-down of authorisations by councils in the periods 2008-09 and 2009-10, please click this link

Posted by on May 23, 2010 in Home | 41 Comments