Revealed: The full extent of council spying

By staff

Local councils have used powers intended for serious crimes to spy on residents over 10,000 times, new figures have revealed.

The figures confirm that councils are using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to spy on dog fouling littering and other trivial offences.

The figures were released by the Liberal Democrats, who say the Act has become a ‘snooper’s charter’.

But the government claims it is already on top of the matter, with home secretary Jacqui Smith warning councils to use the powers responsibly.

Currently, only nine per cent of Ripa authorisations end with a successful prosecution.

“This government has seen civil liberties as little more than a temporary inconvenience,” said Julia Goldsworthy, Lib Dem local government spokesperson.

“Slowly but surely freedoms have been eroded and we’re now in a situation where dog fouling is considered sufficient to warrant surveillance by council officials.”

New guidelines to councils on the use of Ripa will be published by the government shortly.

The Tories have said they will restrict the Act’s use to crime which carries a prison sentence.