Councils misusing Ripa powers

British Councils have been using their powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to spy on dog owners, fly tippers and smokers, a survey conducted by pressure group Big Brother Watch claimed.

According to the survey, a total of 8,575 surveillance operations were conducted by 372 local councils in England, Scotland and Wales over the past two years.

Surveillance powers under Ripa were given to councils to help them tackle terrorism and other serious crimes, but, the council in Newcastle upon Tyne used them to carry out 231 operations on residents in the past two years. Kensington & Chelsea council used powers under Ripa to spy on suspected of repairing vehicle on the street, while authorities in Gloucestershire spied on illegal movement of sheep.

Councils in Chesterfield, North Norfolk and Merton used Ripa powers to snoop on people suspected of smoking in non-smoking areas. More than dozen of councils used Ripa powers to catch pet owners who pets fouled the pavements.

Speaking his mind, Big Brother Watch’s director Alex Deane said, “Now that the absurd and excessive use of Ripa surveillance has been revealed, these powers have to be taken away from councils.

In Britain, a total of 474 local authorities and 318 other agencies have been provided with powers to conduct surveillance operations.