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back to article LibDems uncover over 10,000 RIPA yarns

Local councils are using snooping powers too readily and without proper oversight. A survey of 180 councils by the Lib Dems has found snooping laws have been used 10,288 times in the last five years. Some 1,615 council workers can now authorise such investigations and 21 per cent of those staff are below senior management grade …

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The Right to Silence

AFAIK, the right to remain silent has never vanished, it was the wording that changed. People still have the right to remain silent, but they cannot rely on stuff they *do not* say in a court of law.

Though technically you should *never* give up your right to remain silent, no matter what you say the cops can use it against you, so its always best to stay quiet until a lawyer arrives!

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Black Helicopters

Maybe I'm Being Cynical...

...but does anyone else think that the Lib Dems are cracking down on the amount of Freedom of Info requests because they've got stuff to hide, such as those dodgy expense claims for 2nd houses, salaries for their employees who just happen to be members of their family, etc...

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Black Helicopters

If I thought...

...the LibDems not only had a hope in hell of winning BUT really really kept it's promise on this issue, then I would vote for them. I try to be 'glass half full' but I'll probably be disappointed, won't I?

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right to silence

whoooooa, when did that one die?

I really can't wait for comrad Gordon to leave. don't let the door to number 10 hit you on the arse on the way out....

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Stick with it and you get my vote

All Fool's day already?

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Wrong, wrong, wrong!

For chuff's sake I wish the media would stop atgging every discussion of RIPA with the words 'originally designed to fight terrorism' or 'anti-terrorism legislation'. It is NOT, I repeat NOT specifically anti-terrorism legislation and never has been. It is a bunch of regulations that tell authorities how, when and if they can carry out certain types of investigation and what precautions, checks and balances must be in place before this can happen and for it to be legitimate.

That's investigation for ANY offence not necessarily anti-terrorism, not even necessarily for a serious crime.

I'm no fan of uk gov or the ongoing strangulation of the definition of 'private life' but dammit if I've got some pikey twat dumping lorry loads of tires at the end of my street then I want someone to do something about it and if that means setting up a hidden camera or having someone from the council follow their van then what is really wrong with that?

If I can't let my kids (not that I have any) play on the designated playing field because ignorant bastards are forever letting their dogs shit all over it and not cleaning it up then what am I supposed to do? Watch the field myself and ring the council every time I see someone leaving a dog egg behind in the hope that a quick response SWAT team will descend from the sky Minority Report stylee and apprehend the faeces abandoning miscreant?

There are very strict guidelines on the circumstances in which the types of covert surveillance or interception that RIPA deals with are used. If there is a problem with councils not following the correct procedures or using these methods when other less intrusive methods are available then, yes, that is a problem and it should be stomped on but if it's genuinely the only way to catch some fucker then I'm pretty much all for it.

It is NOT anti-terrorism legislation. Stop using the the fucking word 'terrorism' it's incorrect besides being pretty much meaningless these days and unhelpful.

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Anonymous Coward

It's not the misuse you know about...

... Look at the snooping on solicitors when they talk to their clients, that only came out because the police sought a prosecution for incitement based on what a solicitor said, but it's unlikely they got lucky on their first surveillance. Most likely is that it is widespread and ongoing misuse.

Do you remember when we and Parliament discussed and debated whether the police could monitor solicitor-client conversation? Me neither. They did it first, found a good tests case, then prosecute that test case to legalise the snooping.

The idea that the police need to charge or release people seems to have escaped them too. The Irish courts had to remind them they have no evidece. They've taken to simply rearresting people to renew the detention time.

Then there's the 9pm curfew in London for kids, the court already said that's not legal, and in straight defiance they've reintroduced it.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/03/21/london-imposes-defac.html

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

So how many RIPA abuses do you imagine are going on that we don't know about and won't know about, until the rozzers find a nice test case to try to prosecute for?

.

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Lib-Dem activity

With all the activity and sound-bites coming from the Lib-Dems recently you would almost think they were expecting an election soon. That's not to say that what they are shouting doesn't need saying, just that they seem to be chasing the polulist vote while ignoring the inconvenient issue of the economy, perhaps because they don't expect to be leading the country but fancy their chances at being a significant minority.

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Unhappy

Damn straight.

“This Government sees civil liberties as little more than a temporary inconvenience. Slowly but surely freedoms have been eroded. We’re now in a situation where dog fouling is considered enough to warrant surveillance by council officials."

QFT.

Shame northing's gonna be done about it. All hail glorious leader Brown!

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Title..

Sounsil Snooping?

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Black Helicopters

Who'd have thought it.

Who'd have thought that this would happen and that these powers would get abused? oh yeah - everyone...

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You missed the best statistic...

...only 9% resulted in successful legal action according to the beeb.

I think I'd put a monetary value on privacy and force the councils to cough up some compo to the other 91%. Their pockets is the only place they feel the pain.

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backfired

The report certainly backfired on the Breakfast programme on the BBC this morning. They were swamped with people glad that the system is being used in this way because its all the minor issues of vandalism which bothers the UK public so much.

What's the point in only using the system for major violent crime if such as thing is rare, as the government and Nick Ross of Crimewatch would have us believe?

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Unhappy

@Kevin Johnston

"[T]hat they seem to be chasing the populist vote while ignoring the inconvenient issue of the economy"

cf Vince Cable over the last year or so

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Stop

No alternative

Matt - The Tories killed the right to silence in the same Criminal Justice Act that seriously curbed our right to protest and clamped down on "music characterised by repetitive beats". The British tabloids were in full support at the time, so Labour didn't oppose it.

Britain is a democracy, and as such has the government it asked for. In 1994 we were scared of 'travellers' and 'crusties', in 2004 we were scared of 'asylum seekers'. In both cases the government used these bogey men as an excuse to curb our liberties. In the late 80's the Tories tried to introduce ID cards for football fans(who were then predominantly working class) as a way of combating 'football hooligans'.

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RW
Unhappy

@ AC 13:30 GMT

"They've taken to simply rearresting people to renew the detention time."

They did much the same thing to suffragettes a century ago. Suffragette throws paint on some bastion of male privilege. Coppers arrest her. She goes on hunger strike, complete with forced feeding. When she's getting really weak, they release her. She recovers. They re-arrest her. Lather rinse repeat.

The relevant legislation was called "the cat and mouse act" given the way the copper cats played with suffragette mice, catching them, releasing them, catching them again.

Why does the government of the UK act like it's an occupying power instead of an expression of the people's will? Why do Smith, Harman, Blears, Brown, et all act like the populace is The Enemy? Labour is the real enemy of British values.

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Linux

woot for the Lib Dems er hang on...

If they are so 'right on with the kids' like Ben Elton like then how come when the meat hits the metal they invariably and without exception slavishly back the Labour position?

Talk a good fight (especially Vince Cable) but totally fail to walk the walk.

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The Lib Dems...

They do make a good opposition some times, and I would be tempted to vote for them and let them try running the place for once, if it wasn't for their blind loyalty to Europe and it's financial albatross.

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@RW

Surely, the cat-and-mouse act was regarding people who had actually been convicted of offences, to avoid them dying in prison, and was an alternative to force-feeding

Not that it actually seemed to be much of a solution, except maybe in the short term.

As far as RIPA surveillance is concerned, surely it's not *that* relevant who authorises it? Whatever 'senior management grade' means, if the person doing the authorising isn't involved with the details of a particular case, they're basically just going to be rubber-stamping things based on recommendations from someone more junior who does know the details.

At least if the person doing authorisation does know the details, they're at least potentially easier to hold to account., assuming anyone ever reviews the use of the powers.

It's hard to see how good or bad a 9% success rate is, without knowing the details, and knowing what kind of success rate could be expected even in the very best circumstances.

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Minor offences lead to major ones

If you think littering and dog fouling are minor offences, you probably enjoy living in a shithole. Some of us don't.

I for one am perfectly fine with idiots who think it's OK to dump their chip wrappers in the street or old furniture in lay-bys next to country lanes, and who don't clean up after their dogs (or, even worse: the ones who pick it up in a plastic bag and then leave the bag lying there), being caught and made to pay.

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Anyone surprised?

Give them these powers and suddenly, look, every tom, dick and harry down at the council is suddenly able to order surveillance on anyone they suspect of looking at them funny.

I hate this place.

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Anonymous Coward

@Wrong, wrong, wrong!

I think some rephrasing may be in order.

"Measures, originally accepted by the population because they were SOLD as required for counter terrorism" were used for purposes casually omitted at the time.

And that is NEWS ?!?

Rule #1 of any Government: ask for a finger, and if the population agrees, act as if taking the whole arm and some other body parts is perfectly normal and acceptable. As a little aside, I'm waiting for the day where adding totally unrelated clauses to laws AFTER they have been debated but before it becomes law becomes accepted practice in the UK. They must be bloody envious every time that trick is pulled in the US.

Rule #2: none of the supervisory stuff we impose shall apply to ourselves. We are above reproach, above the law and especially worthy of our expense allowance - of course also with as little supervision as possible. And don't even THINK about putting CCTV anywhere near where we live.

New Labour - making even the Tories look good..

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Pirate

Terrorism laws

I want to know how many times these terrorism laws have been used to actually catch terrorists compared to dog walkers who don't want to pick up lumps of dog shit.

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Please do an April 1st article on this

It was a day none of us will ever forget. The entire world looks on with a mixture of sympathy, fear, and horror. Londoners wander around confused and days, the number of casualties are not yet known.

Oxford Circus will never be the same again. Every inch of its well-worn surface is now covered in large piles of dog droppings. Experts believe that the smell will never truly come out, and damage estimates are already in excess of £10 million. The number of shoes discarded in disgust is not known at this time.

Scotland Yard is calling the attack, "The worst terrorist attack of our lifetime", and the Home Office has released a short statement comprising of the words, "We told you so".

It is believed that the terrorists, the Anti Baggie Brigade, rehearsed the mass fouling for months. Each of their dogs is believed to be the size of a German Shepherd Dog or larger, each capable of producing a truly incredible amount of excrement.

Perhaps now we will listen when Wacky Jacky says we need to monitor those who own dogs that regularly foul the pavement.

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Alert

@secretgeek

You are wrong to say that RIPA may be used for investigation into "ANY offence not necessarily anti-terrorism, not even necessarily for a serious crime."

However, I suspect you are right if you meant that RIPA is being used for investigation into "any offence".

RIPA, Chapter 2, Section 22, Paragraph 2 very clearly defines what RIPA may be used for. You will find that the list is concise.

Furthermore, RIPA has nothing to do with setting up covert surveillance - it solely relates to the interception of private communication... essentially emails and telephone records.

Considering the original article for a moment, we are told that in 2008 there were 518,260 RIPA requests. An RIPA request pertains to one individual and a specific purpose, e.g. Joe Bloggs, council tax evasion. These numbers are staggering, but I still fail to see any justification for warrantless access to this information.

RIPA appears to provide unfettered access to what ought to be private and personal information. This information was available prior to RIPA, but very rightly required the oversight of a Magistrate or Judge. RIPA sidesteps due legal process.

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Anonymous Coward

@Secretgeek

Ripa and various other random bits of legislation have been sold to the mug punters as being necessary to combat terrorism. Hence they are now referred to as anti-terrorism legislation.

The words petard and hoist come to mind.

PS I'm also anti dogshit but we've got predator drones for that now. Of course if the filth would get off their arses, do their job and walk the beat we wouldn't need any hi-tech intrusiveness.

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Happy

@Right to Silence

You may not withold the key to an encrypted file, even if it is only in your memory. It is an offence not to tell them.

Right to silence out of the window.

The jury have the right to form an opinion prejudiced against your case if you refuse to answer questions in court.

Right to silence out of the window.

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Heart

Secretgreek - you are the one who is wrong, wrong, wrong

Go and look up the parliamentary debates in Hansard. At the time the legislation was passed, 9 organisations were allowed to use RIPA. The purpose when it introduced was to fight terrorism and serious crime. There is no mention in the original debates about it being used by local councils at all. RIPA was later extended to councils and hundreds of other organisations.

There are (supposed to be) safeguards in RIPA, and a very useful FOI request would be to see how many RIPA orders have been turned down. I suspect the number would be very low.

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@ Secretgeek

Good point about the 'terrorism' label being put on this act. But really it's about proportion and the checks and balances required to ensure it is used properly.....and ultimately criminalising civil breaches (the act is for investigation of criminal activities - are we now saying not removing dog crap is a criminal act?)

I have no issue with them being used for things like benefit fraud or fly tipping, but delinquent dog crapping?? Get a grip.

From the Q&A section on the HO RIPA site...(links later)

Q: What are you doing to address inappropriate use of surveillance/CHIS powers?

We are currently revising the code of practice for surveillance under RIPA and we will give far clearer guidance on when it would – and, more importantly, would not – be proportionate to use covert techniques authorised under RIPA. We will consult publicly on the content of the new code. In particular, we will clarify that it would not be appropriate or proportionate to use RIPA to investigate: dog fouling, domestic littering or dustbins.

Interesting reading:

http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/ripa/about-ripa/

http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/ripa/about-ripa/RIPA-and-local-authorities/

Then there is the question of effectivity. 9% doesn't sound like you're getting a good return on your investment (or i should say ours, because we will pay for this via our council tax), particularly if a significant proportion are for civil matters (bins, dog crap etc).

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@Anyone surprised?

>>"Give them these powers and suddenly, look, every tom, dick and harry down at the council is suddenly able to order surveillance on anyone they suspect of looking at them funny."

But it plainly isn't every Tom, Dick, or Harry, since the bulk of the authorisations still come from senior management (whatever that means), and it seems fairly likely that most of the rest come from people just under them.

Anyone ordering surveillance not only has to find the money for it from somewhere, but pretty obviously has to say what it's *for*, if only for the reason that the people doing it wouldn't know what they should be doing if they didn't know what the reason for the surveillance was.

Someone can't just say "Dig up some dirt on David Hicks - I don't like the look of him!" without a serious risk that the person they tell will go straight off to blow the whistle, even if only to protect themselves.

So far, the argument seems to be that powers are sometimes used for things that some people see as trivial, not that investigations are being done for malicious reasons, otherwise, those investigations would be the *first* things that people drew attention to.

I dare say the paranoid might worry about what we're not being told about malicious investigations being done secretly, but they could worry about that whether or not there was any legislation about when powers could be legally used.

Unfortunately, the paranoid aren't much use as an early warning system for potential problems, any more than a smoke alarm which never stops shrieking is a useful safety device.

If anything, what actually happens is that people just get used to the noise, and ignore all alarms.

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Anonymous Coward

points to note

Emperor Zarg - I suggest you go back and read all of the act - also note the reference to detection and prevention of crime. Offence = crime - not a crime = civil breach

The title is "regulation of" not "provision of" investigatory powers and it only exists because of the adverse effect of the Human Rights Act (S8) on enforcement powers.

It is not necessarily to do with hi-tech gear - the mark 1 eyeball counts as surveillance equipment if there is a chance of seeing private activity.

The use of surveillance does not necessarily require RIPA authorisation - only if there might be a breach of privacy : the Courts are of the opinion that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place.

RIPA authorisation is not required if there is already an existing power e.g. power to do under age test purchasing in the Licensing Act 2003

The authorisations are regularly checked by inspectors from the commissioner's office (usually judges or other senior legal figures) and the authorising officers dread those visits because they know they will spend as much as 3 days going over every word of every authorisation.

Example of how far the idiocy could go :- if a Trading Standards officer is told that a shop is selling dangerous toys and goes there to check it out then if the shop is open = public place = no problem: if the shop is closed, in theory he can't even look in the window without RIPA authorisation because he might see some private activity. Nothing to stop the public gawping though!

Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act introduced a criminal offence.

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@ AJ Stiles

Yeah too right! It's fine to ignore the rights of "idiots who think it's OK to dump their chip wrappers in the street or old furniture in lay-bys next to country lanes, and who don't clean up after their dogs (or, even worse: the ones who pick it up in a plastic bag and then leave the bag lying there)".

As long as they don't go to far, and investigate me, obv....

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Terror!

"Whenever I walk down the street (in my armoured personnel carrier) I am always surrounded by people saying 'Jacqui, I can't wait for my Council to snoop on dog shitters'. And 'Dogs should have ID Cards, Jacqui. We love you lots and lots'"

Jacq(boot) Jacqui Smith.

Home Secretaire.

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@ A.J. Stiles

A.J. - I don't think that litter and not clearing up dogcrap are criminal offences. Anti social? Absolutely.

They are Civil matters. Therefore use of a criminal act governing the use of (intrusive) investigatory powers into Criminal activity is not appropriate.

And i think you'd have an interesting time showing that people who don't clean up their dog's crap go on to become muggers for example, per the implications of your title.

PS. I don't own a dog, curse owners if i step in their dogs' shite and dislike litter louts. I just don't think that letting councils play at being MI5 for such matters is either proportionate necessary or an effective use of money. A view supported i think by the 9% 'success' rate.

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Anonymous Coward

The "I would vote Lib Dems but..." idiots.

Why do so many people in the UK repeat this mantra? "I would vote Lib Dems but I can't trust them", "I would vote Lib Dems but they don't stand a chance of getting in", "I would vote Lib Dem but my vote wont change anything".

Sorry but that's just fucking stupid. The second point is stupid for obvious reasons, if you don't vote them of course they wont get in. Even if you vote them and you don't get in you're strengthening their party's position. If you want to vote for them then fucking vote for them, don't throw your vote away for parties you don't like.

The final point is also quite clearly stupid, if your vote wont change anything why vote tactically for a party you hate to prevent a party you hate more getting in when according to you your vote wont change anything and wont stop the party you hate most getting in anyway following your own logic? Clearly you might as well just vote the one you like most even if you don't believe it will change anything.

But the former point is also equally stupid. How could you possibly know when you've never had them in power to base this on? The answer to that is often "but all politicians are liers", again how the fuck can you possibly know that when you haven't given them the chance? this comment is based on the fact that Labour and Tory politicians have proven themselves to be liers so people's excuse for voting Lib Dems is that they're applying Tory/Labour attitude to the Lib Dems.... and so vote Tory/Labour instead. What kind of fucking backward ass thinking is that? You vote for those you know are liers, because they're liers and assume that they all must be liers without even trying to find out? No one's saying the Lib Dems will be perfect but they might lie a whole lot less than the others - we simply don't know.

As for the idiot who said Lib Dems talk the talk but don't walk the walk because they always vote with Labour anyway, can I just shout, as loud as possible, WHAT THE FUCK???? I suggest you look at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ and have a look how Lib Dem MPs actually vote. There is a common belief that laws we hate get passed because Lib Dems and the Tories vote for them even if they say they hate them - I don't know where the comes from but it's not true, Labour have enough of a majority to win votes without any opposition support whatsoever and this is commonly what happens (ID card votes etc.).

Regarding comments by the idiots who think using RIPA to spy on people whose dogs foul in public think that's acceptable, if you truly believe that then you better not have ever so much as dropped a piece of litter, better not have ever gone even 1mph over the speed limit and so on else those guilty of allowing dog fouling are equally within their rights to demand RIPA be used to spy on you every time you drive your car, every time you walk the street, to make sure you don't litter or speed. That is what you're asking for and I hope that's what you'll get if you keep pushing for it, maybe then when it effects you you'll see what the problem is.

There isn't a single party with whom you'll agree on absolutely everything, the key is to vote for the party that you agree with the most, or most important points to you on regardless of who everyone else is voting for or who you think will win. At very least if you vote Lib Dem and they don't get in you can stand up when the party that did get in rapes the country and say "I didn't vote these idiots", rather than "Well actually, I tactically voted for these idiots so it's my fault the country is fucked".

It's no wonder this country is fucked when we have people supporting abuse of the likes of RIPA, but only when it suits them. When we have people who vote for a party they hate just so a party they hate even more doesn't get in rather than just voting for a party they like.

Get a fucking grip guys, vote for the party that best represents you personally and your views. Do that all your life and as you get older you might actually see the party in power that represents you and may create a better future for you and possibly even your kids, rather than repeating the same mistake generation after generation.

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The biggest RIPA yarn of them all

Surely the biggest RIPA yarn is the one the government and most of the press keep ignoring? The one where our largest ISPs and a former spyware company are planning to (and have already covertly) snooped on tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of citizens, and copied the exchanges between those citizens and websites? The whopping great Phorm Webwise RIPA yarn?

Come on Lib Dem MPs - wake up! Don Foster made a good start many months ago but he seems to have gone quiet and is leaving all the work to his colleage Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Dormer, Sue Millar. Don't miss the biggest RIPA ripoff right under your noses - the DPI spy being planted between us and the internet by BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Korea Telecom, the spy being sold by Phorm which no one in government, Ofcom or ICO or the police seems worried about. RIPA was passed to prevent this sort of spying interception of communications. So lets prevent it shall we?

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@Various ACs

When it comes to fly-tipping, dog-fouling, etc, what is actually being done under the auspices of RIPA?

It's hard to see that much would need to be done or *could* be done apart from identifying the people responsible.

It's not obviously more an invasion of someone's privacy to take a a video of them doing something in public, or for someone to follow them and see where they live than to have an official or copper go straight up to them and demand they identify themselves.

Given the nature of some people, it may be rather safer for officials not to confront them directly, unless they're mob-handed.

For those who'd argue that it's the thin end of a wedge leading to 100% surveillance, someone could argue with equal sense that making it illegal to find out who's breaking a minor law in public is a thin end of a wedge leading to a total lack of law enforcement.

Of course, many thin end of the wedge arguments are bollocks, since they assume people are unable to realise when things have gone too far.

If people *are* able to work out what laws they do and don't want enforcing, then things will get damped down if/when they do go to far.

If people *aren't* able to work out what laws they want enforcing, then people saying RIPA has gone too far seem likely to be wasting their time anyway.

Now, I'm sure that if things *did* get to the point where most people thought powers were being over-used, and cared enough to generate a political backlash which rolled things back, the thin-end-of-the-wedge types would be the first to jump up and say "Told you so!", despite the fact that the situation would indicate that the population in general was able to correct things even if they'd ignored the doom-mongers..

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Stop being wilfully ignorant

RIPA does NOT provide powers - it imposes restrictions on powers obtained from other legislation and methods (in the public domain) for investigating them.

If you want to worry yourselves just look at the sheer quantity of surveillance equipment available to the general public who have no general oversight to prevent them using it how they wish.

And again, dog fouling and littering are criminal offences and therefore RIPA authorisation must be obtained (not a choice or an option).

Further example - Councils have a duty to enforce noise nuisance legislation. Resident calls in claiming that their neighbours are playing the radio loudly till the small hours and shouting to each other over the top of it.

How does the Council establish that this is a genuine complaint and not simply malicious?

The obvious answer is to go and listen - but since there is a chance that they will hear the contents of the shouted conversations they have to obtain RIPA authorisation to do so - no option. Remove RIPA and you remove the ability to investigate noise nuisance - often quoted as one of the more annoying of annoyances in the UK.

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