UK Daily Mail
Thursday, Nov 20, 2008
The Government is planning action to stop local councils using surveillance powers designed for terrorism and serious crime to deal with trivial offences like dog-fouling, a Home Office minister said today.
Vernon Coaker admitted that council snooping on people who overfill bins or drop litter was undermining public support for the anti-terror law, and promised action ‘in the near future’.
Mr Coaker also defended the scale of the national DNA database, which contains samples from 7.39 per cent of the UK population – more than in any other country in the world – and includes those detained by police but released without charge.
He told the House of Lords Constitution Committee that in the four years after a change in the law in 2001 which allowed police to retain DNA from people who have not been convicted or charged, some 6,290 of these individuals were linked to serious crimes including murder, rape and other sexual offences.
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However, he was unable to say how many of these links led to prosecutions.
The Committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into surveillance and data collection, heard a number of peers express concern about intrusion into daily life by the authorities, following a string of cases in which councils have used powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to tackle relatively trivial misdemeanours.
The former head of the Local Government Association, Sir Simon Milton, wrote to councils in July to urge them to be more sparing in their use of the Act, which permits them to seek permission to carry out covert surveillance and intercept of personal communications.
This article was posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 5:04 am