Should Town Halls Use Terror Laws to Spy on People? Councils across the North East Are Using Anti-Terrorism Powers to Spy on Citizens Hundreds of Times Each Year Reporter TOM MULLEN Finds out More and Hears Arguments for and against Their Methods

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), September 5, 2008 | Go to article overview

Should Town Halls Use Terror Laws to Spy on People? Councils across the North East Are Using Anti-Terrorism Powers to Spy on Citizens Hundreds of Times Each Year Reporter TOM MULLEN Finds out More and Hears Arguments for and against Their Methods


Byline: TOM MULLEN

yes

Stephen Savage, Newcastle City Council's director of regulatory services and public protection.

FOR several months now we have read countless dramatic headlines accusing councils of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut by misusing so called anti-terror laws to tackle minor crimes.

It's time to set the record straight.

While Newcastle City Council has indeed used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 258 times in the last two years, it is wrong to suggest we or any other councils are misusing anti-terror laws designed to allow covert surveillance of suspected terrorists.

These are not specifically anti-terror powers and they don't give us new powers. They simply control, and limit, how a wide range of public bodies - including councils - actually carry out what they have been doing for years.

Typically this means surveillance to combat and prevent the sale of alcohol, solvents, cigarettes and spray paints to children and young people, major environmental crimes like the dumping of dangerous industrial waste, tackling anti-social behaviour, and tackling conmen.

These are all big concerns for local people, who can be reassured councils are taking their role very seriously.

We are committed to putting local people first and will use whatever powers exist to catch rogue traders, doorstep criminals and scam artists.

These are the things that local people have told us matter the most to them, and these are the things we are committed to tackling. RIPA is predominantly used to improve the quality of life of our residents.

NO

Gareth Crossman, pictured, director of policy at civil liberties pressure group Liberty

ONE of the more complex pieces of legislation passed in the last decade is the grandly-named Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. …

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