back to article Bury council carries can over spycam binmen

It's one step forward, one step back for local government snooping, as new figures reveal the extent of Council spying on residents, and Bury comes a cropper to the tune of (allegedly) £100,000 for its secret filming activities. However, those who believe they have a divine right to intrude into everyone else’s lives seem …

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Unshocker

Big surprise this.

What on earth were people expecting with the vagaries of the RIP Act and a heavier reliance on legislation to resolve the pettiest of problems?

C.S. Lewis said -

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

This is never more true than here in these woesome tales.

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NewSpeak

like the NewSpeak at the end of the article, especially considering the recruitment of children to inform on neighbours, just like the "Spies" child organisation in "1984".

Thumbs down for the gov using this as an instruction manual.

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Fantastic news.

I live in Bury, so I assume I'm going to have to fork out for this debacle.

Perhaps they could stop wasting money on flowers (Bury has won Britain in Bloom twice) and use that to cough up the dosh instead of hitting my council tax bill.

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Bronze badge

does anyone remember country called DDR ?

... or Deutsche Demokratische Republik . It was democratic to such extent that everyone was allowed, or even actively encouraged, to snoop on his family, friends and neighbours.

Seems like snooping goes hand in hand with democracy, doesn't it? Just like cheating does.

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Unhappy

Beecham

As a resident of Newcastle during Beecham's heroic & successful attempts to tax it's residents out of existence, anything that man says is automatically deemed to be more self-serving posturing. I don't trust anything he says.

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Anonymous Coward

when

are we all going to realize we need to take a stand against this sort of bull sh*t and do something?

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Anonymous Coward

What I thought I'd do...

"UK Government Abuses Power" is basically un-news nowdays.

Ironically, their attitude is the exact kind that breeds what they'd call terrorists (and the rest of us would call freedom fighters).

Anonymous because I don't fancy the inquisition.

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Silver badge

What a great idea

Pay eight year olds 500 quid to plant evidence on their neighbours and then photograph it? Now that's real NuLab "thinking" for you.

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@ Steve Kay

Love the C.S. Lewis quote! Not heard it before.

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Stop

I for one welcome

our new communist barsteward overlords, may their reign be bloody and brutal...

Long live the nu liebour hidler yoof!

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Anonymous Coward

Did you ask them...

.... or put an FOI request in?

Due to the fact that the information regards public spending, they can't really argue that it's not in the publics interest to know, so you should get your information within 14 days.

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Alien

A mixed bag

Quote "...have led to Councils now using their powers to tackle such life-threatening issues as littering, benefit fraud and parents abusing their school catchment areas"

1 and 3 I agree are ridiculous abuses of RIPA, but benefit fraud is a serious issue, as is fraud in any public sector organisation.

I was an NHS fraud investigator for some time and we used RIPA to arrange surveiilance that uncovered some alrge cases of theft/manipualtion of records.

There is a contolr mechanism whereby the surveillance can only be authorised by the Chief Executive of the organisation, and if he/she gets it wrong theyc an be liable. The answer is therefore training those persons to ensure that the request is not frivouous or excessive. Perhaps then the CE of Bury Council shoud be shouldering the fine, not the local taxpayer.

Alien cos they're watching us all even without RIPA

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Anonymous Coward

Labour Government.....

are going to be remembered for being the Government that totally F'd up this Country and made it into a Police State to boot. Really I think that there sho9uld be a revolution and the first target should be those in the Labour Government. Oh dont tell me its an offence to say such things .

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm Bin Men

You can always get the bin men to remove your pile of building waste or whatever, you just bung them £50 ... certainly cheaper than ordering up a skip at fucking atrocious prices. They are quick as well ... its off your lawn before you can blink!

I think maybe it is this behaviour the council is not keen on.

Whether the RIPA is the right instrument to spy on the council's own workers, well thats a different matter. But it IS almost impossible to convict this sort of thing, I imagine the bin men consider it a valid perk, a bit like using the photocopier, innit?

We need a mammon / money sign icon !

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Fear not, citizen!

If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear! Therefore, if you fear, you must have done something wrong. Now bend over while I insert a rectally fitted GPS tracker. Its for your own good.

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Unhappy

Laughing stock

UK councils using kiddie spies even made the French radio news yesterday morning. Maybe we should invite EDF in to run No 10, we've sold most of the rest of our public services to the frogs...

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Coat

Where do I sign up?

I could do with making a few hundred quid filming the locals out sh*tting their dogs of an evening without picking it up.

They call it 'walking' the dog, but I've seen what they actually do.

Can I get a contact number or something?

Mine's the one with a built-in poop-cam.

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Dead Vulture

"It is not our intention to ..."

Ho hum, here we go again. When RIPA was being passed, a succession of ministers reassured us with "It is not our intention to ..." statements. Once again, what matters is *not* the intentions of those passing the legislations, it is the actual measures being passed.

Whatever their intentions for NIR or ContactPoint, what matters is what is actually done with these databases.

Oh, and BTW, linking out to Daily Mail articles doesn't make el Reg look good.

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So what's new?

Much as I am incline to post yet another jeremiad on the 'open prison' surveillance state, I have to say that the use of children is a non-story.

Local Authority trading standards officers have always done this: they get a report of a shopkeeper selling cigarettes and alcohol or porn to children, they go to court with surveillance records, statements from children picked up by the police with the offending material, and - to seal the case - they send in a child to buy the stuff.

Wiring the kid for sound and video is new. Using RIPA for it is new - although I have to say that RIPA isn't just an anti-terrorism act, it's intended to regulate ALL surveillance, including the unpleasant (but necessary) work of monitoring and detecting minor offences like benefit fraud, trading standards, and the use of local authority services by people who aren't entitled to them.

Things could've been done better, and RIPA isn't acting as an effective legal regulatory act for keeping surveillance proportionate and restricted to legitimate targets under reasonable suspicion. But that's another story: *this* 'news' article isn't news: it's an opinion-piece by someone with a political agenda.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmmmmm...

But if the binmen carried on doing this, taking more and more trade waste on the sly, more waste would be going to landfill and (potentially) the council could be hit with a huge landfill tax, which they then pass on to (you guessed it) the taxpayer. I agree that using RIPA was perhaps a little heavy-handed, but if this kind of carrying on goes unchecked there's only one (type of) person who will end up paying and it's us - the taxpayer.

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Anonymous Coward

@Colonel Panic

Everyone, nearly every day, breaks a law.

I'm wondering when people will be happy to be hung for the sheep?

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Pirate

Nothing to hide

If people really had nothing to hide, then why is it in their bin? and why do the council have such an interest in your bin contents?

I always said these powers would be abused, same as powers are always abused. How soon will the rest of NuLabour's odious legislation begins to be used.

Bit like 1930's Germany really.

Before allowing this dreadful government to eliminate any more of our freedom, please go and stand in the Genocide Museum in Lithuania, go and see for yourself what this state intrusion will become. Go and walk through the cells, see for yourself what interrogation means, stand in the execution chamber and cry for those who gave their lives so that Lithuania and the other Baltic states could be free from the communist yoke.

Then, go find Blunkett, Straw, Clarke, Blair and Brown and put them where they belong.

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Anonymous Coward

David Blunkett

Whose idea was it to stick a blind person in the position of Home Secretary and let him apply his judgement as to whether ordinary joes are entitled to privacy?

Yeh that was real s-m-a-r-t, what next, an agoraphobic in charge of planning open parks and gardens? One of those mad scared women that hide behind their curtains in charge of law and order? Of course not! Such a thing would be ridiculous.

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Young spies?

If I know your average 8 year old, I can imagine they would take the 500 sovs and if they could be bothered, make up some old tosh about the miserable old geezer at the end of the road who had a go at them for making too much noise last month! I wouldn't think for a minute that your average under ten is a paragon of virtue, who's stories should be taken with a pinch of salt.

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Paris Hilton

Rowan Atkinson take a bow

"The day when it becomes a crime for ‘walking on the cracks in the pavement’ and ‘looking at people in a funny way’ must surely not be far off."

Presumably the offences of 'wearing a loud shirt in a built-up area' and 'possessing an offensive wife' will be hard on their heels? Bring back Not the Nine O'clock News say I!

Paris, because even she isn't that stupid

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Anonymous Coward

Kiddie Snoopers

"Undercover children, armed with hidden surveillance equipment, were sent into shops to carry out illegal purchases of cigarettes and alcohol."

How else are you going to catch shops selling beer & fags to the underage ? If the kids, their parents (and probably the police & the CPS) have all given informed consent, then what's the problem ?

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Anonymous Coward

@A mixed bag

"There is a contolr mechanism whereby the surveillance can only be authorised by the Chief Executive of the organisation, and if he/she gets it wrong theyc an be liable. The answer is therefore training those persons to ensure that the request is not frivouous or excessive. Perhaps then the CE of Bury Council shoud be shouldering the fine, not the local taxpayer."

I don't think so, that old 'more training' solution comes up again and again. You can't train someone to show impartial independent judgement when they are not impartial nor independent. The best they can do is fake it.

Also who checks the Chief Executives choices?

No, it's a false buddy check designed to give a gloss of process on RIPA. The *police* should be investigating if there are crimes, their actions should be checked by the *judiciary* applying laws defined by *Parliament* proposed by ministers.

Real proper independent checks on the enforcement processes.

Look at what happened with the anti-social behaviour law, such a vague wide ranging one, left to the discretion of officers, and along comes an officer that turns it into a curfew law. Curfew in Britain in peacetime. Illegal detention by an officer against members of the public using an anti-social behaviour law.

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Joke

@ Smallbrainfield

"I live in Bury, so I assume I'm going to have to fork out for this debacle.

Perhaps they could stop wasting money on flowers (Bury has won Britain in Bloom twice) and use that to cough up the dosh instead of hitting my council tax bill."

Grim up north I tell ya....Spot the northern, rather have a grey town than one full of colour and pretty stuff.... nice :s

At least with the flowers you can see em and therefore where your money went... unlike refuse collecting or lack of, policing or lack of... etc. etc.

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Go

tick for "no publicity"

It's entirely possible that the council is legally forbidden to tell you how much they settled with the bin men for. This is one of the options you can choose when making an Employment Tribunal claim to open a case against your employer, and the bin men will have just ticked the "no publicity" box when they submitted their ET1 tribunal claim form.

However this does not extend to the council being forbidden to tell you how much money they wasted on their own legal costs and other expenses, outside the terms of the settlement. I think El Reg should perhaps press them a little harder on this.

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Anonymous Coward

Curfew zones are illegal, the officer should be prosecuted

Just to add to my comment above (regarding the fake independent check on RIPA), can I remind you that the Curfew zones have already been tested in court and ruled illegal back in 2005.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/jul/21/ukcrime.immigrationpolicy

"The judge said there was no power in common law to force children off the streets and the Anti Social Behaviour Act did not give officers that power. "All of us have the right to walk the streets without interference from police constables or CSOs unless they possess common law or statutory powers to stop us."

The problem again, with laws that don't have the judicial checks in them. Remove the checks and the laws get abused.

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Coat

Those were the days

You would never get away with vicious commentary like "Not the Nine O'Clock News" and "Spitting Image" nowadays. We have PC, the Septics have litigation - same shit result.

Being arrested for "Urinating in a public convenience" FTW!

Mine's the one with the lyrics of "I've never met a nice South African" in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

defense and prosecution counsels cozy up?

The fact that Bury council said that it couldn't reveal details of the settlement with the "rogue" binman sounds a bit odd. Did said binman's counsel push for a non-disclosure clause? Cos it sounds a lot more like something the prosecution counsel would have pushed for. Seems like there was a little quid pro quo going on there...

/suspicious mind

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Silver badge
Flame

Nothing wrong with snooping on binmen

What's wrong with snooping on binmen?

I do not pay my council tax to have recyclables which could be sold to raise revenue for the council, buried in landfill at the council's expense -- and therefore eventually my expense.

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Anonymous Coward

How many quid pro quo did you say?

It seems we are getting all of the government we pay for now, although £500 seems a bit much to be giving the tykes. What would an eight-year old be doing with that much money? Getting into trouble, that's what.

Bloody council should be brought up on corruption of yoof charges.

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You can't have it both ways.

Public outcry RE littering. Result : Councils take pictures of people littering and attempt to prosecute them. Result : Public outcry about misuse of "Anti Terror powers". Erm, sorry, WTF ?

Children as mystery shoppers to off licences, supermarkets and pubs has been taking place for many years, but all of a sudden it's a an "abuse" of RIPA ? What about before RIPA ? Was it a terrible abuse of the human rights of the citizens of the UK before it was regulated ?

RIPA may be a poor piece of legislation, it's protections may be poorly applied, but it's hard to have a discussion about that when people are screaming about similarities to the statsi because perfectly normal enforcement activities (littering, dog fouling, fly tipping, etc) are being undertaken.

And to simply say that these should be police matters supposes a rather larger police force than we posses, but oddly, those who sing from the RIPA hysteria hymn sheet often use the phrase "police state" ...

FWIW I think RIPA is an awful piece of legislation. It's just a shame that the debate about why is so poorly framed and that the abuses that do occur are blown so far out of porportion.

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Anonymous Coward

"What's wrong with snooping on binmen?" - A J Stiles @ 14:12

It's discrimination.

All Councillors & Council Employees should be under surveillance. All, or none.

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RW
Dead Vulture

Something's very, very wrong

When a stupid municipal council, tasked with mundane things like pumping sewage and collecting garbage, is allowed to utilize a law (supposedly) intended for investigation of extremely serious crimes.

Where's your separation of powers when you need it?

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Entrapping the Gnome

I wondered what had happened to the "Gnome", or Jeremy as he is almost as widely known. I have not had him on my radar for quite some time and had assumed that he had retired but that would not be viable to him. It is worthy of him that he has been denying the obvious illegality of badly executed espionage as he never was particularly effective in that, or any other sense and managed to completely ruin an already damaged City Council during his time at the helm. Along with his pal "Dicky". Nice to know that he remains in existence but I shudder to think what he will get up to next. He should do what I am doing and grow old disgracefully and privately.

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