RIPA REALITIESWe would like to take this opportunity to respond directly regarding the recent freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Brian Paddick concerning RIPA authorised council surveillance operations across the UK.

It is somewhat astonishing to believe an ex-policeman of some 30 years (And) with ‘operational’ experience behind him has raised such a ridiculous, time-consuming and costly request with the UK tax payer footing the bill.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

RIPA REALITIESThe Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 commonly referred to as ‘RIPA’ was introduced to ‘formalise’ existing powers across government bodies and public authorities, ensuring those subjected to the Act would operate to a common framework.

Many government organisation such as the Security Services, Police and Local Councils are subjected to RIPA. Recent changes in the 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act have seen the RIPA authorisation process become more stringent with judicial approval and a series of statutory tests now required prior to ‘most’ surveillance situations.

For example:

Local authorities in England and Wales can only authorise use of directed surveillance under RIPA to prevent or detect criminal offences that are either punishable, whether on summary conviction or indictment, by a maximum term of at least six months’ A local authority may not authorise the use of directed surveillance under RIPA to investigate disorder that does not involve criminal offences or to investigate low-level offences, which may include, for example, littering, dog control and fly-posting.

A local authority may not authorise the use of directed surveillance under RIPA to investigate disorder that does not involve criminal offences or to investigate low-level offences, which may include, for example, littering, dog control and fly-posting.

The new control measures introduced have in all cases, increased the administrative burden on our local authorities and an overloaded judicial system, however in some instances also the response time to genuine cases.

Lord Paddick stated:

“It is absurd that local authorities are using measures primarily intended for combating terrorism for issues as trivial as a dog barking or the sale of theatre tickets. Spying on the public should be a last resort not an everyday tool.”

In response to Lord Paddicks comments:

RIPA was not ‘primarily’ intended for combatting terrorism, that is an ill-informed, uneducated, impact statement. We are sure if he were to consult Jack Straw he would be much better informed.  He refers to ‘trivial’ dog barking or in real terms ‘anti-social behaviour’ for anyone who has suffered the misery of anti-social activity it can be terrifying and force members of the public to become prisoners in their own home.

RIPA REALITIESThe tragic ‘needless’ death of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter which happened in 2007 demonstrates the real and horrific effects anti-social behaviour can have.  Mrs Pilkington set fire to the family car with herself and disabled daughter inside after a decade of targeted abuse which even the police ignored.  Leicestershire police have now been forced to pay out an undisclosed reported ‘five figure’ sum for their failure.

The sale of ‘theatre tickets’ his flippant comment selected no doubt to trivialize the issue, when the facts are very different, possibly if he had used the term ‘illegal sale’ or maybe included ‘counterfeiting’ the proceeds of which have been directly linked to the funding of major crime including the purchase of drugs and firearms. Suddenly, changing the words, things sounds a little different, a little bit more serious and a little bit more terrifying for those caught up in the fallout.

When a member of the public, possibly the next Mrs Pilkington approaches the local council for help, what exactly would Lord Piddick suggest?

Lord Paddicks irresponsible comments show a distant lack of compassion, common sense, arrogance and most defiantly ignorance.

RIPA REALITIESThankfully the deputy leader of the London borough of Bromley Cllr Colin Smith responded, stating:

“Council officers deal with complaints day in and day out about thoroughly disgusting socially inadequate individuals fly-tipping waste and preying on the weaker, more vulnerable members of our society, normally the elderly, and this technology is key to bringing their worst excesses to heel.”

He went on to state: “the council kept to the letter of the law to prevent any “so called ‘spying’ taking place on law-abiding individuals”. “I’m frankly far more concerned about the rights and civil liberties of the victims and wider council tax-paying public, who are currently having to pick up the tab, than the small minority criminal element who continue to treat the rest of us with open contempt.”

Lincolnshire Trading Standards:RIPA REALITIES

Who have used RIPA to prevent cigarettes and alcohol being sold to underage children and also counterfit goods being sold at car boot sales.

Mark Keal Stated:

“Without evidence, it is incredibly difficult to get a successful prosecution and get these products off the streets”  

Combatting counterfeiting fraud which has direct links to drugs, firearms and human trafficking is happening today all over the United Kindom.

Would Lord Piddick would like to offer our councils some advice on how to deal with these so called trivial matters?

The Guardian in its article quotes “councils used RIPA as a way of checking up on benefit fraudsters, fly tippers or the sale of alcohol and tobacco to underage children” as if this is a bad thing?

Quite frankly, our society would be in a much better place if individuals such as Mr Smith could trade places with the likes of Lord Piddick!

Benefit Fraud Realties:RIPA REALITIES

UK government figures for 2012 estimate benefits overpaid due to fraud was £1.2 billion and tax credit fraud was £380 million – would those figures not help towards funding for the NHS or possibly provide more support to our elderly or injured service personnel?

 

RIPA REALITIESLateo Surveillance Ltd has carried out and assisted many RIPA authorised surveillance operations for local councils across the country providing professional, compliant and experienced surveillance services both physical and technical.  We have had the pleasure to work with some of the most professional, diligent and dedicated officers, who are on the front line every day.  The one thing they all have in common (other than being under-resourced) regardless of any misconceptions are, they genuinely care.

We are absolutely 100% confident every investigation ranging from serious anti-social behaviour, theft, fraud and flytipping (which in 2014/5 cost the UK tax payer in excess of 50M to ‘clear up’) has been fully authorised, justified (And) the one thing RIPA fails to mention ‘morally’ the right thing to do.

RIPA – AS IT STANDS

In RIPA today we have a robust system, it works, it’s fair and has very strict control measures in place, it protects law-abiding members of the public.  Importantly let’s not forget, law-abiding citizens are NOT’ the target of directed surveillance, yes, sometimes they get it wrong however the control measures implemented will identify this very quickly and concerned members of the public can even request information which may have been obtained.

What we can ‘guarantee’ from experience; time, money, resources and importantly equipment and procedures would not be put at risk if there were any doubt as to the legitimacy of an operation.

A Final Thought

Those individuals be it the Liberal Democrats, Liberty, Amnesty International, ‘rent a mob or the unwashed brigade’ constantly moaning about civil liberties and the invasion of privacy, we believe, are completely out of touch with the changing, dangerous world we live in today.

Normal, hardworking, law-abiding people are fed up with the ‘do-gooder’s’ and their complaining, keep pushing hard enough and you may well tie the very hands of the people who’s job it is to protect you.

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RIPA Realities

The principal investigator of Lateo Surveillance Ltd is a full member of The Association of British Investigators endorsed by the Law Society of England & Wales.