back to article Local council uses snooping laws to spy on three-year-old

Poole Borough Council has admitted using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), designed to regulate snooping by police and other bodies, to check the usual address of a three-year-old child applying for a primary school place. The council is unrepentant and said it will continue to use powers available to it under …

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Flame

for fooks sake!!!

were i the parent of that child i would be at his office now introducing him to my good friend mr pain delivered by his acqaintance mr cluebat(6" nail obligatory!)

what kind of fooking nation are we when a local government mandarin(or satsuma) decides its fine and dandy to use such disproportionate powers to check on a 3year olds home address

bastids, bastids, bastids, bastids, bastids!

neb

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Welcome...

.. to HM Open Prison United Kingdom.

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HELLO?!?

I'm pretty sure this kind of crap is exactly the reason why these sorts of laws shouldn't be passed in the first place.

Not much of a surprise to me...

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Flame

Function Creep

I tells ya, they'll be using RIPA for even more petty crap next. How Poole Council can justify this is beyond me. Couldn't they have just looked at the family's council tax bills of the previous three years and worked out from there where they'd lived? Rather than waste an inordinate amount of money doing covert surveillance?

Where will this madness end? We - the population of this country - need to get the political classes out of power by any means necessary. It's gone beyond a joke.

I am the revolution and I'd like my fucking country back.

PS - I think you mean Codes of Practice, rather than "Practise"

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Flame

We told you so

Someone has to say it but we told you so.

Back when they were trying to introduce this snoopers bill we said it would be abused like this and we were told oh shut up you conspiracy theorists they wouldn't do that.

......

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I'm all for it.

Well done Poole Borough Council.

Far too much cheating going on on this issue.

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Go

Maybe fair enough

Assuming that there is not extra expense (big assumption) on this surveillance than would ordinarily be spent on such an investigation into fraudulent school applications I don't see a problem. Law breakers need to be discovered and stopped. On first glance it may appear to be a case of sledgehammer-fly interaction but the council is aware of how contentious an issue school places are and would like to be seen to be doing everything to keep the system fair. If they did nothing they would doubtless be accused of not caring and encouraging fraudulent behavior.

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And they wonder why we're cynical?!

This kind of 'fuction creep' is why I'm against DNA databases and ID cards. The reason they cite today for the technology has nothing in common with the uses they come up with later.

CCTV: on introduction - 'Will stop vandalism'. Now: 'we'll catch you on a double-yellow line'...

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Oh dear

I'm sure we were reassured that these powers would only be used against serious crims.

Like parents who try to get their children into the school of their choice.

Personally I think we should have introduced internment for crimes like that.

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Scarey

They've gone from using this law to monitor people that maybe engaged in terror plots to spying on 3 year olds, that's one extreme to the other and if you fall in the middle they now have all the excuse they need to use this law, say your using a hose pipe during a hos pipe ban or even put the wrong rubbish in the wrong bin, wlkaing the dog and seeing where it poops?....shudder.

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@Iain

Law breakers?! Wanting to get your child into a good school is breaking the law (and a criminal matter) now?

Why am I not surprised.

Viva le revolution.

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Stop

All point at Poole

I encourage everyone to point at Poole Borough Council and say "Aha!". This is the sort of quasi-legitimate use of massive powers that we are afraid of. These laws were designed to legislate "for using methods of surveillance and information gathering to help the prevention of crime, including terrorism. "

And none of this "In such circumstances, we have considered it appropriate to treat the matter as a potential criminal matter." malarky when discussing an application to a primary school. Is it criminal to lie on a School Application? It shouldn't be.

This incident is the clear warning of how these powers can be used arbitrarily by an non-elected offical declaring a crime by fiat. He can't do that. And he can't use Anti-Terrorism Laws to legitimise his actions.

Let the petty officals receive a rephormation from El-Reg.

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Pirate

Welcome

to your new and improved police state and the death of your civil liberties.

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Black Helicopters

The Govt is Mother, the Govt is Father

Shocking story of the day #1 – Serial criminal runs down and kills 4 yr old boy *twice*, drives off and doesn’t even get jail time for it.

Shocking story of the day #2 – Councils using RIPA to spy on family for 2 whole weeks on the chance they’re trying to get their youngest child into the same school as their other kids, and are totally unrepentant about doing it.

On their own, each is shocking. Together – it clearly shows what is wrong with our “modern” world today. We are the point where our petty local officials can justify 2 weeks of covert surveillance over a school seat. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have covert spying on the likes of the scumbag driver? Gather enough evidence to stop him, and those like him, killing innocents. Surely *that* has more benefit to society?

Orwell - how disappointingly right was he??

Black Helicoptor, goes without saying reall

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Ah, the irony

"Tim Martin, head of legal and democratic services"

Of a council that treats its council taxpayers as terrorists.

You couldn't make it up.

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Stop

we were warned ...

...at the time that such powers would inevitably be used for trivial matters. The reason is the same as the answer to "why do dogs lick their balls ?" [1]

[1] Because they can.

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Go

A criminal act was committed (in 2 of the 3 cases they investigated)...

... and RIPA was used to gather evidence of that crime. Might seem excessive, but essentially this was no different to any other kind of fraud. RIPA is not a terrorism only thing as many people think - it's for all crimes.

I know of people who, of their 3 requested schools, were not given any of them. Result, child has to go on their own (so without any of their friends from pre-school) to a school which is significantly further away, and to be honest, not as nice or as good performing.

If that was down to the system being fairly and honestly applied, so be it. However, if those people had lost out their child going to the school they wanted because of fraud by other people - then I think doing everything possible (subject to financial sense) to stop these things happening is excellent.

Might sound petty, making a fraudulent school application, but I'm sure some people say the same about fiddling benefits - it's all fraud. Everyone should have the rules applied to them fairly, and consistently. Fraud is fraud.

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Dead Vulture

Another way of keeping the elite from the downbeat

This to me seems like another way of stopping people from impoverished areas getting in to schools that "pride" themselves on an affluent image. At the end of the day, why the heck does it matter where a child actually comes from so long as they have potential.

Surely the fact parents lie about where they live for the sake of a better application shows completely how the current system is a big FAIL. Smart Alec with an IQ equal to the potato has a better chance of getting in to these schools than Potato sack Barnes who has intelligence, IQ and a hard working attitude.

I went to a Grammar School and saw so many people who didn't deserve to be there but because they were toffs could be, rather than complain as indeividuals though...How would we go about actually complaining in this day and age where petitions have to be approved, etc. A fools Democracy, we live in a dictatorship system really

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3x2

Mission Creep

I suspect this sort of behaviour is just the tip of the ice-berg. Right from the start we have been warned against putting this kind of power in the hands of local functionaries. They can't help themselves, it's like handing a child a loaded gun.

(bear in mind this is advice to schools!)

http://www.hants.gov.uk/education/schools/ripa/

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Black Helicopters

ffs

as quoted in the film V for Vendetta : "People shouldnt be affraid of their Governments - Governments should be scared of their people"

as said before Viva le revolution.

if this fucking government doesnt sort itself out soon they will be facing more terrorists than ever. mainly white english people who are just sick of stupid decisions and criminal actions of their surveillance government

surely as said before people can PROVE they live at certain addresses

the fact that people have to try and get into 'that good school' is a joke. all schools in this country should be good - we pay enough tax. maybe we shouldnt be throwing money at africa, the middle east, asia and the EU until our country is fixed?

i have already decied i cannot live in my lovely little house for many more years as the local schools are shite. this is ridiculous, i will have to move and lose a fair bit of money just for my future kids to get a decent education - thats if they arent tagged at birth, which im sure isnt too many years away :(

anyone else think guy fawkes needs a modern copycat?

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Anonymous Coward

Spying on a 3 year old.

Not a good thing to do in these days of paedophile-trigger-happy-string-em-up-first-ask-questions-later lynch mobs.

Anyone know the name of the council officer wearing the hat, trench coat and dark glasses with a slight nervous sweat?

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Jim
Go

Waste of council tax but

why not just educate your child at home in the way you want them to be educated. Save £££ in mortgage fees, beat the system and get to see them grow up.

Wave at the children going to school as you pass the Go sign traffic lights.

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We don't need no comment title, we don't need no post control

"Shocking story of the day #1 – Serial criminal runs down and kills 4 yr old boy *twice*, drives off and doesn’t even get jail time for it."

Killed him twice? He got out, performed CPR on the kid, managed to resuscitate him, then got back in his car and drove back over him? That's commitment to getting in the Daily Heil, that is.

Anyway, I've used up my outrage quota for the week so all I can do is laugh. This is even better than the church school silliness. "Oh yeah, I'm definitely Christian, I've been a Christist for years, I go to church regularly (twice a year is regularity after all), please let my kid in so he doesn't have to go to the place where Chemistry consists of how to cook your junk and all the maths problems are along the lines of "If your takings for the day are £150, and your pimp takes a £100 cut, how much can you keep back from him without getting your bitch ass slapped."

Really this article should just read "Government screws up, individuals desperately try to do the best they can in adverse circumstances, government finds a way to blame their workarounds rather than itself for the crap result." Then El Reg staff could just copy and paste it two or three times a day and go down the pub.

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The difference between this council and others...

... is that this council used the relevant laws and documented what they did.

I bet any amount of money that almost every council uses at the very least "unofficial", ad-hoc, off-the-record just-going-to-park-my-van-here-for-a-bit methods to check stuff like this.

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Coat

@ IAIN

I said nothing when they came for the three year olds....

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Ru

Re: anyone else think guy fawkes needs a modern copycat?

An incompetent bomber, motivated by religion?

There have been a few of those, of late.

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Stop

Good excuse

for a possible completely different purpose.

What's the point of following cars when the 3 year old gets thru the gate @1600 to re-emerge @0830 the next morning, to me the kid lives there period.

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Anonymous Coward

Snooping

It would be good to see someone put the head of legal and democratic services for the Borough of Poole under 24 hour surveillance for a time and see how he likes it.

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

The educated will always find ways of passing their advantages onto their children, whether by private schooling or failing that, playing the system to ensure their children get into a good state school- it's human nature to look after our own, and if we encouraged parents to nurture thir children more, particularly in their education, society as a whole would be a lot better off.

All that the current system achieves is that the catchment areas of good schools are packed out by the wealthy. At least with grammars, those less well off stood a chance if they worked hard- how in their quest for 'fairness', they've moved the battlefield to the one place these kids most in need of a chance can't fight- who'll pay the most for these houses. And when you realise that the families buying these houses see them as an alternative to paying £10k+ private school fees for 7yrs, for each of their three children, you begin to realise just how unfair the current system is.

I'm not criticising those who do choose state schools- under the current system they're entitled to and i don't have a problem with them making the most of that, but how about we means test education? Grammars/secondary moderns didn't go down well, comprehensives clearly aren't working; maybe those who can afford private schooling shouldn't have the option of using the good state schools, which could better be used to serve those who have no other chance of a decent education. State education suddenly has a lot more resources because a load of their pupils have been moved out into private schools (or are at least paying substantial fees to their state school), so they can have smaller class sizes, better teacher pay, can afford better facilities, could subsidise school trips to places that are actually interesting and beneficial to visit. Wealthier families get places at the type of schools they want- yes, they'll have to pay, in some cases a lot more, but at least they'll save on buying those expensive houses in catchment areas, lawyers for admissions appeals and private tutors, and if there were a sliding scale of subsidies available, they'd be able to afford it, and maybe they should pay- maybe education has been unrealistically cheap for them so far. The need for extra private schools could be met partly by selling off unused state school sites to private enterprises (businesses or non-profit/charitable trusts).

We do this with care for the elderly, higher education- why not also secondary/primary education?

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Pirate

Grrrrrr....

Poole LEA so bad that good parents are driven to sneaky behaviour to try ensure their kids get best start in life, Poole responds by putting covert surveillance on 3 year old.

Just remember this next time someone tells you that the ID/ latest fantastical database of goodness designed to protect us from evil will only ever be used against nasty men intent on wholesale murder. Severity is subjective, Poole doesn't have many terrorists but it does have parents trying to do the best for their kids - Get them!

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Paris Hilton

re: ffs

"the fact that people have to try and get into 'that good school' is a joke. all schools in this country should be good - we pay enough tax."

Bingo! I keep getting told that what I want from public services is 'choice', however what I actually want is for my nearest doctor/hospital/school, to actually work properly instead of competing on statistics.

The lady pictured here next to my post may as well be in charge.

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RIPA is our friend

Remember folks it's under RIPA legislation that Phorm is illegal. It's a duel edged sword - while it allows for some forms of surveillance under certain circumstances it ALSO legislates under what circumstances that surveillance is legal or called for.

This instance comes under the Covert (Directed) Surveillance part of the RIPA legislation. The only important question here is - is it a crime to try to get your child into a primary school of which you're NOT in the catchment area?

This is important because the RIPA directive states:

"Directed surveillance can be lawfully undertaken to obtain private information about a person if public authorities reasonably suspect that a person has committed, or intends to commit, A CRIME." (my emphasis)

If the parents were NOT commiting a CRIMINAL offence then the council was in breach of the legislation and in so doing WERE comitting a criminal offence and should be "hoisted by their own petard".

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Choice, my friendly monkey's arse

There should be no choice. Your kid should go to the nearest school. If the problem is that the nearest school is no good then the school needs fixing. All the 'choice' has done is add stress to parents, let poor schools fail, put more traffic on the road and favour the rich. Oh, and make councils spy on families. Fix the first problem and you don't have to deal with the problems from not fixing it.

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DM
Coat

First..

...they came for fingerprints and I did not speak out because I was not a terminal five traveller.

then they came for the web profiles and I did not speak out because I was not a BT (or Virgin or Talktalk) customer.

then they came for the school applicants and I did not speak out because I was not a school applicant.

When they came for my thoughts, there was no one left to speak out.

/Mine's the one with the Niemöller biography in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

>fraudulent applications for school places

Hmmm... Fraud law was updated in 2005-6 since, amongst other issues, goods or money had to be obtained rather than services.

Education is clearly a service, but look what it says regarding services:-

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldbills/007/06007.1-5.html#j100

11 Obtaining services dishonestly

(1) A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he obtains services for

himself or another—

(a) by a dishonest act, and

(subsection 2)

(a) they are made available on the basis that payment has been, is being or

will be made for or in respect of them,

That is, the services so stolen must be normally charged for, and they mustn't have made the payment, now, either education is free in which case it can't be fraudulently obtained or it's paid via taxation in which case they've paid in full.

It appears that by investigating "fraudulent" school applications, they weren't actually investigating an offence at all.

I hope the two "criminal offences" aren't fraud along these lines, maybe there's something else to the cases...

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Gold badge

That's why applications need legal review

This would not have happened if a judge had to sign off the application - why would this be different from a search warrant?

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Cheating bloody parents

Serves them right for cheating on others who had more rights to send their kids to the school.

Reports say that they didn't move out of their old house until the kid had a placement at the school - how many other families can afford that sort of thing just to ensure that their brats get in to the 'right' school.

Greedy, selfish bastards bringing their kids up to learn that it's fine to fuck everyone else over if the end seems to justify the means.

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Think of the CHILDREN!!! AAAAAAARGH!!!!

This is down to RIPA being written in wooly interpretable language. It would appear to need amending to lock its use down to "serious" offences which would be defined very clearly in schedules. I find it difficult to believe that a Judge agreed to the use of these powers in this case; it's such a complete nonsense when their residency is provable in so many other ways that it doesn't bear thinking about.

All they had to do was ask for 3 utility bills, a driving licence etc.

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Black Helicopters

Not good excuse at all

For those that think that it was a good idea 'because it intended to stop criminals'. You should remember that 'good cause' does not necessarily justify the means in a democratic society. Not even in untrivial matters. If cause would justify the means every man in this country should be under constant surveillance because it would help to solve quite a few thousand rape crimes per year. It would also solve murders, childabuse etc. All kind of criminal activities. Just in case. In the rape case it could always be argued that all men are POTENTIAL rapists. Therefore surely constant surveillance WOULD BE A REALLY GOOD THING?

All humans are potential criminals. What is reasonable? The point is that we would normally expect that there would be A THIRD PARTY who would assess the relevance and importance for a breach of privacy and integrity. This third party is expected to take into consideration not only 'the cause' but also the rights of the individual who is to be investigated. This is why in many democratic countries it requires a court order for legal investigations to encrouch on human rights and intervene in peoples private lifes. It is unreasonable in a modern society that any official with only suspision as grounds would have some automatic right to interfere in peoples private sphere, 'just in case they might be criminals'. It is just not good enough excuse. It is a serious threat towards the whole idea of democratic society. Once a carte blanche is given to institutions to track and survey the population on a whim, the result of this tracking could all too easily be used for unsolicited use. Socio-cultural corruption and abuse due to application drift of powers available.

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Anonymous Coward

It's Simple Really

When powers exist they will be used to solve problems the creators didn't consider. When information exists it will be used to answer questions the gatherers didn't consider.

When processes exist for one thing, people will bend them to fit something they don't have a process for.

When targets exist, people will make sure they meet them in ways the designers didn't consider.

You'll probably find that Poole has a KPI of investigating 5 fraudulent applications a year, so if there are only 4, we'll choose the 5th at random so we make the target and get the pay rise, budget increase or whatever. Then find a 6th to show how good they are at delivering tax payer value.

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Tim

So...

Have this come out now because they are just about to admit that they have lost the discs containing the information on this family?

Actually, the whole grubby exercise is pretty unsurprising. Here in Norwich you used to see the council's CCTV camera pointed into the window of the lingerie dept of M & S. I alerted M & S to this & the council then changed the camera into a globe-type one, so you can't see where it points.

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Definition of criminal

Well, in my eyes spying citizens for a possible fraudulent school application is a worst crime that said fraudulent application !

If I got it right, they spy before the fraud occurs, to avoid it. That's not good. If you want a civilised way, you remember the good old "innocent unless proven guilty", let people who want to fraud try it, THEN you punish fraudsters.

Well I guess people who make donations to the school they'd like their children into don't get that spying first, accept application after treatment...

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Inappropriate Powers

Poole Council are not the bad guys here - they've been given a job to do and powers to do it with, and they've put the two together. The problem is that the powers they've been given are not appropriate - if you gave a bus driver a remote control that changed traffic lights to green, he'd use it to keep his bus running on time, but everyone else would get home a bit later than normal. You can't blame him for that, he's just trying to do his job the best he can. The problem is when you make up laws that allow that kind of surveillance to happen without having a good system backing it up to ensure it's used in an appropriate manner. I don't know how much surveillance costs, but I'd wager it's probably not much less than an extra place at the school.

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Boffin

@Liam

"as quoted in the film V for Vendetta : "People shouldnt be affraid of their Governments - Governments should be scared of their people"..."

You know, Liam, I don't think that was the first place somebody said that...

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@Ferry Boat

Good point.

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Bad taste

“Killed him twice? He got out, performed CPR on the kid, managed to resuscitate him, then got back in his car and drove back over him? That's commitment to getting in the Daily Heil, that is.”

Yes – sentence was obviously badly composed, due to being between early morning coffees. Still – not quite as bad as making exceedingly bad taste comments about a kid getting killed by a hit-and-run driver.

The dead child story could have come from the Daily Heil, Torygraph, Grunian, or even Fortean Times – doesn’t really change the fact that in a modern democratic society it now appears acceptable to employ 2 weeks of covert surveillance on the suspicion of trying to get a kid into the same school as his siblings, on the say-so of someone who wasn’t even competent enough to get a real job and went for the cushy “public sector” number instead.

When you give Police powers to muppets, you get comedy moments like these. If it was really a criminal matter – it should have been up to the Police or the security services to investigate. They’re the ones the vast majority of us accept have such powers, not Joe Halfwit from the local council who probably got 1 GCSE in embroidery and a job in the town hall cos his auntie worked there and put a good word in for him. The person doing the spying *may* have been trained; but he was sent out on the say-so of the people we entrust to empty the bins and organise meals-on-wheels.

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Fraud is not a game

3 cases were investigated. 2 found to be fraudulent. Will the parents in those 2 cases be prosecuted? If not, why not? Are they MPs or something?

I do think that invoking RIPA to investigate this is a bit much, as is not disclosing all details in full to the 1 set of innocent parents.

It worries me that the council sought to invoke these powers and then can't answer simple questions like; has the investigator had a police check or not?

The council were wrong to use RIPA; they are now being thoroughly negligent after the fact. Heads should roll.

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Anonymous Coward

Appropriate?

"Poole Council are not the bad guys here - they've been given a job to do and powers to do it with, and they've put the two together."

Not really. If the arguments about the purpose of the RIPA being to allow surveillance in the course of investigating *crime* and the act of misrepresenting yourself to a Council not being a *criminal* fraud, the RIPA is not a power they should put together with the job. It's an inappropriate tool, regardless of whether it's appropriate that a Council should have it or not. The lack of oversight/backup is a separate matter.

The argument over whether worker A is safe to be let loose with the nailgun is different to the argument over whether worker A should use the nailgun to put something together that ought to use screws.

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Black Helicopters

Who are these people?

It's seems like more and more unaccountable bureaucrats have been given the authority to intrude into our private lives. But who are these people, what checks have they been through, what are the checks to make sure it's not for personal gain?

Why does the government think that their bureaucrats can be trusted with all this information but all our lives need be open books to all of them?

I can just about live with the security services/GCHQ intruding into our private lives when it comes to national security but they go through vigorous checks before they get the job and are observed themselves, they protect the data they have, it's a small group of people carrying out the surveillance and for the most part the reasons are pretty well defined.

Why were these traits of an authoritarian regime only a few years ago but now it’s necessary for a free democracy? Has the world rally changed that much? Are you all really in so much fear that you are willing to so easily give up your freedoms and rights to a private life?

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Black Helicopters

I work in Poole...

I work in Poole and I can see the council offices from my desk. Anyone got any spare surveillance equipment they can lend me?

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