What else can you expect if such wide powers for Directed Surveillance are delegated to Walting bureaucrats in Local Authorities ? "the authorising officer must in each particular case believe it to be proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by carrying it out and necessary to prevent crime or disorder, protect public health, collect or assess any tax, or for other specified purposes." Really. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/11/nspy111.xml Poole council spies on family over school claim By Richard Alleyne A council has used powers intended for anti-terrorism surveillance to spy on a family who were wrongly accused of lying on a school application form. For two weeks the middle-class family was followed by council officials who wanted to establish whether they had given a false address within the catchment area of an oversubscribed school to secure a place for their three-year-old. The "spies" made copious notes on the movements of the mother and her three children, who they referred to as "targets" as they were trailed on school runs. The snoopers even watched the family home at night to establish where they were sleeping. In fact, the 39-year-old mother - who described the snooping as "a grotesque invasion of privacy" - had held lengthy discussions with the council, which assured her that her school application was totally in order. Poole borough council disclosed that it had legitimately used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on the family. This has led to fears that parents all over the country could be monitored by councils cracking down on those who bend the rules to get their children into a good school. The Act was pushed through by the Government in 2000 to allow police and other security agencies to carry out surveillance on serious organised crime and terrorists. It has since been taken up by councils to catch those carrying out any "criminal activity". The mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "I'm incensed that legislation designed to combat terrorism can be turned on a three-year-old. It was very creepy when we found out that people had been watching us and making notes "Councils should be protecting children, not spying on them." The surveillance began when the mother, who runs an online toy business, and her 36-year-old partner, a computer programmer, applied for their youngest child to go to Lilliput First School, where their two elder children, aged six and 10, were educated. The primary school, near the millionaire suburb of Sandbanks, Dorset, is heavily oversubscribed. At the time they were in the middle of moving house but, after consulting the school, they held off selling because that may have meant moving just outside its catchment area. When the deadline passed for them to get into the school, which the girl joins in September, they moved a mile down the road and put the house back on the market. Then the council began its investigation. "We have lived in the house for 10 years, our eldest went to the school and our middle child is still at the school and so it seemed only right to send our youngest, especially as all her friends were going there," said the mother. "We checked with the school and everything was above board and then we were called in and told we had been under surveillance. I could not believe my ears. Not only is it an invasion of our privacy but what a waste of money, especially as we had done nothing wrong." Yesterday the council defended using the powers, claiming that lying on a school application amounted to fraud. It said it had used the law on two other occasions during the past year and on both had proved that parents had lied about where they lived. However, James Welch, of the human rights pressure group Liberty, said: "It's one thing for anti-terror police to use covert surveillance, but it has come to a pretty pass when it becomes the tool of the school catchment area police. This is a disproportionate and unnecessarily intrusive use of RIPA."