Thursday, March 26, 2009

Snooper's Charter - The Figures Are In

I read this on the way to work this morning, but I've linked to the BBC coverage and the Daily Mirror's "exclusive" as there are a couple of interesting differences in the information reported.

While the BBC does indeed mention that "councils in England and Wales have used controversial spying laws 10,000 times in the past five years" the Mirror goes on to break down the figures.

(Remember, these are the offences that COVERT operations were used to target. And covert operations are costly, which is something you might want to remember when your new Council Tax bill comes through.)

Benefit fraud, 1780 times. Anti-social behaviour, 696 times. Theft, 79 times. Noise nuisance, 942 times. Dog fouling, 88 times. Fly tipping, 451 times. Criminal damage/graffiti, 127 times. Unauthorised taxis, 138 times. Trading standards, 734 times.

You'll note - although the BBC completely fails to mention it - that none of the reasons the RIP Act has been used for by councils has been terrorist related. Which is a bit of a worry, as the Government specifically introduced this Act so that terrorist suspects could be covertly watched, rather than joe public. I suppose the BBC are ignoring this point as it would suggest (correctly) the Government haven't thought this law through properly (again).

You may also be interested to note that just nine per cent of the surveillance operations led to a successful prosecution, caution or fixed-penalty notice. Nine whole percent. Wow. However will our prison system cope?

Even more worryingly, 1,615 council staff have the power to authorise the use of RIP Act, but 21% (or 340) of these staff are below senior management grade. Yep, 340 junior staff can have you followed, covertly filmed and thoroughly investigated for something as trivial as not realising your dog has taken a dump (and therefore not cleaning it up) or over filling your bin (because you're not allowed to have a bonfire in your back garden any more).

Ladies and gentlemen of the UK, refuse to pay your Council Tax. The council may try to take you to court, but if everyone refuses, then there's not going to be anywhere they can put everyone, is there?

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