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"ASTONISHING" SCALE OF WALSALL SNOOPING

09-07-2008

Walsall Council has admitted authorising almost 1,000 "snooping" investigations using powers introduced to spy on terrorists.  They've used the legislation to check on an average of three people a week over the last seven years - a rate described by one councillor as "an abuse".

The revelations came to light as a result of questions tabled at Monday’s Council meeting by Blakenall's Democratic Labour councillor Pete Smith – who’s spicing up the town’s normally placid backbenches.

He asked how often the local authority had taken advantage of the Regulation Of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which legislates the use of surveillance to combat crime – including terrorism.

Smith reports that, “a staggering 916 authorisations had been made on both employees and members of the public with regard to, according to Cllr. A. Griffiths, employee absenteeism, trading standards, benefit fraud, anti social behaviour and ‘miscellaneous’ cases.

He adds, "Given that this Act was supposed to be part of the armoury against terrorists, it seems to many, including myself that this Act is being abused by local Councils.

"Walsall Council it seems has been secretly spying on an average of 3 people a week, over the last 7 years.

"It is increasingly being seen by Local Council employees as a 'threatening tactic' to dissuade employees from going off sick, as this could possibly lead to secret surveillance of their home and movements, if the Council deemed such surveillance necessary.

"I would encourage Councillors in other local authorities to start asking questions of their Councils too. I suspect that what is happening in Walsall, though bad enough, is probably the tip of a very big iceberg.

"It seems that we are on the slippery slope where control & surveillance become acceptable and where hard one civil freedoms are being chipped away at bit by bit."

IS PETE SMITH RIGHT TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE LEVEL OF SURVEILLANCE? SHOULDN’T THESE POWERS BE LIMITED TO THE POLICE? DISCUSS THIS ON THE SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY THREAD?

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