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Haringey uses anti-terror laws to target litter louts

PUBLISHED: 15:41 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:10 07 September 2010

By Charlotte Newton HI-TECH surveillance laws designed to track terrorists are being used to catch petty criminals, it was revealed this week. Haringey Council has admitted using pioneering RIPA legislation up to 85 times since 2001 to entrap vandals, ben

By Charlotte Newton

HI-TECH surveillance laws designed to track terrorists are being used to catch petty criminals, it was revealed this week.

Haringey Council has admitted using pioneering RIPA legislation up to 85 times since 2001 to entrap vandals, benefit cheats and unlicensed traders among others.

Home Office guidelines state that RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) legislates for using methods of surveillance and information gathering to help the prevention of serious crime, including terrorism.

The revelation came to light after a Freedom of Information request by Lib Dem Muswell Hill Cllr Jonathan Bloch.

It showed the surveillance law had been used 29 times to "identify persons engaged in anti-social behaviour". It also used the Act three times to "acquire communications data"; once to "identify persons dumping refuse on estates"; once to identify unlicensed traders and people defacing public buildings and once to "identify persons working while claiming sickness benefit".

But the council has refused to give Cllr Bloch and the Broadway more detailed information on why and how it used RIPA, without paying £475.

Cllr Bloch said: "It took me three attempts to get Haringey Council to respond to this inquiry but there is a huge public interest and concern over how the council has used RIPA.

"None of the reasons which Haringey Council has purportedly used it for can be regarded as serious. It's a total destruction of trust between the council and the public.

"The council is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and by trying to charge us to find out why, they are defying the public and abusing the legislation.

"Haringey Council cannot differentiate between serious, violent crime such as terrorism and anti-social behaviour which is an irritant."

But the council insists the laws have proved vital in fighting crime and protecting the community.

A spokesperson said: "This legislation has mostly been used to deal with serious cases of anti-social behaviour which threaten the safety of the local community.

"Thanks to this legislation we have managed to address some major problems and therefore transform some neighbourhoods. We take anti-social behaviour very seriously and will use whatever measures we can to tackle it.

"Although we have provided Cllr Bloch with a lot of information what he requires now will take up much officer time in research which is why a fee will be charged. We have supplied all the information we have to hand."

In April this year, Poole Borough Council in Dorset admitted using RIPA to spy on a family for three weeks to find out if they were really living in a school catchment area.

charlotte.newton@hamhigh.co.uk


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