Laura Sharman 28 May 2015

Councils spent 42,000 days ‘snooping’ on public

An investigation has revealed councils spent 42,000 days on covert and direct surveillance operations, ‘snooping’ on pigeon feeders and motorists.

A freedom of information request conducted by Channel 4, found local authorities used the regulatory investigative powers act (RIPA) to spend 42,000 days ‘snooping’ on citizens between April 2012 and January 2015.

The surveillance targets included drivers who parked in disabled parking bays and people feeding pigeons.

The investigation found Warrington Council had the highest number of RIPA use, with 69 operations accruing 6,357 days.

A council spokesperson told Channel 4: said: ‘We have used RIPA powers to recover fraudulently claimed benefits and for trading standards investigations, including the sale of tobacco to minors. We use this legitimate tool in combating crime and always use our powers responsibly, following the rules governing the use of the powers.

‘We have been audited by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (responsible for overseeing the use of covert surveillance by designated public authorities) who endorsed our use of the RIPA powers to date.’

However, several councils said some surveillance operations lasted less time than expected, leading to concerns councils are being granted more powers from the courts than necessary.

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