A small victory on council snooping

It’s not all bad news this week, though. Local councils’ use of surveillance powers, which have been notoriously misused to investigate offences like dog-fouling and lying about your school catchment area, must now be sanctioned by elected councillors “or senior officials”.

This is being headlined by some as a “ban” on snooping, but that’s not what it is. It’s at best a hopeful sign of increased accountability. My joy is guarded partly owing to the “senior officials” rider, and partly because the whole idea falls short of the Lib Dem proposal to require a magistrate’s consent before surveillance takes place, and to limit its usage to “serious offences”.

Chris Huhne:

This consultation is a tacit admission by the Government that its surveillance society has got out of hand.

For too long, powers we were told would be used to fight terrorism and organised crime have been used to spy on people’s kids, pets and bins.

Without reform, RIPA will continue to be a snoopers’ charter. Surveillance powers should only be used to investigate serious crimes and must require a magistrate’s warrant.

Ministers must ensure that this consultation results in real changes and not just warm words.

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