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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Government backtracks on another illiberal law

Today's Times reports that local authorities are to have their powers to snoop on the public curbed in another Government u-turn designed to address alarm at the expansion of the surveillance state.

Local authorities have used legislation intended to tackle terrorism and serious crime to deal with minor offences such as dog fouling.

However, under the Minister's plans relatively junior council officials will lose their power to authorise surveillance operations on behalf of local authorities. Only council chief executives and officials at director level will now have the right to order investigations involving techniques such as eavesdropping, tracking vehicles and secret filming.

Codes of practice will outline the offences for which surveillance can be used and make it clear that local councils should not deploy it for minor or trivial cases. The Home Secretary though, stopped short of meeting demands from the Local Government Association for greater involvement by councillors and the public in authorising and overseeing Ripa powers. They had called for local people to be co-opted on to a committee overseeing surveillance and also for senior local councillors to be responsible for authorising surveillance.

So once more the Government stop short of a proper reform that would involve greater scrutiny of the way that these powers are used. Clearly, any liberalising influence is just skin deep.


Dog fouling should be stamped on!
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