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UK 'terror' laws used by local councils to spy on children and control their enrolment into schools



Anti-terror laws allow council to spy on family

Laws designed to monitor terrorists have been used by a council to spy on a family to make sure they lived in a school catchment area.

The movements of one couple and their three children were checked without their knowledge for almost three weeks.

A specially trained officer used legislation under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to do it.

The Act was dubbed a 'snooper's charter' when passed in 2000.

The surveillance began after the couple applied for their youngest daughter who is three to go to a certain school.

They planned to move house but asked the council for advice on its admissions policy to ensure she would get a place.

Officials told them as long as they did not move before the end of January their daughter would qualify for the school and could start in September.

The family were told later, during a meeting with the council after they moved, that they had been under surveillance from February 13 to March 3.

Detailed notes about their movements included 'female and three children enter target vehicle and drive off' and 'curtains open and all lights on in premises'.

The mother, 39, whose other children are six and ten, 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 people had been watching us.

'The council will not tell us how long they are going to keep the information or what they are going to do with it.

'They won't tell us if the people watching us were police-checked or whether they were taking photographs.'

The surveillance was carried out by Poole Borough Council in Dorset. Jamie Welch, of Liberty, condemned the tactics as 'ridiculous' and claimed they would undermine public trust in lawful surveillance.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said using the powers to spy on parents was 'ridiculously over the top'.

He said the council officials 'should lie down in a darkened room until the urge to play James Bond passes'.

A spokesman for the council defended its move, saying it was committed to 'investigating the small minority of people who attempt to break the law'.


SOURCE

Metro, "Anti-terror laws allow council to spy on family", 11 April 2008.
http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=140816&in_page_id=34

"The Insider" mailing list article, 11 April 2008.

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