Laws giving more power of surveillance to the state are often justified in terms of their use against terrorists, pedophiles and other such criminals, but such laws can and will be used for such purposes as finding deadbeat dads or even checking if families reside in a specific school district.
A council has admitted spying on a family using laws to track criminals and terrorists to find out if they were really living in a school catchment.
A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council for more than two weeks.
The council admitted using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) on six occasions in total.
Three of those were for suspected fraudulent school place applications.
It said two offers of school places were withdrawn as a consequence.
[…] RIPA legislation allows councils to carry out surveillance if it suspects criminal activity.
On its website, the Home Office says: “The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) legislates for using methods of surveillance and information gathering to help the prevention of crime, including terrorism.”
It goes on to say the act allows the interception of communications, carrying out of surveillance and the use of covert human intelligence sources.
Poole council said it used the legislation to watch a family at home and in their daily movements because it wanted to know if they lived in the catchment area for a school, which they wanted their three-year-old daughter to attend.
Also, in the past, these kind of laws have been used against political opponents, as the Church Committee reports show. It is quite probable that they will be used similarly again.