London Telegraph 
Sunday, Sept 7, 2008
Councils are using anti-terrorism laws to spy on residents and tackle barking dogs and noisy children.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found that three quarters of local authorities have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 over the past year.
The Act gives councils the right to place residents and businesses under surveillance, trace telephone and email accounts and even send staff on undercover missions.
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The findings alarmed civil liberties campaigners. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: “Councils do a grave disservice to professional policing by using serious surveillance against litterbugs instead of terrorists.”
The RIPA was introduced to help fight terrorism and crime. But a series of extensions, first authorised by David Blunkett in 2003, mean that Britain’s 474 councils can use the law to tackle minor misdemeanours.
Councils are using the Act to tackle dog fouling, the unauthorised sale of pizzas and the abuse of the blue badge scheme for disabled drivers.
Among 115 councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request, 89 admitted that they had instigated investigations under the Act. The 82 councils that provided figures said that they authorised or carried out a total of 867 RIPA investigations during the year to August