Mother challenges council over spying powers

A mother-of-three has branded Poole Borough Council "ludicrous and completely outrageous" as she took the authority to court for using controversial powers to spy on her family.





The council was accused of playing "fast and loose" in its attempts to establish whether Jenny Paton's children lived in the correct school catchment area.



Her complaint surrounds the use of the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).



Speaking before a landmark two-day Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing in central London, Ms Paton, 40, said: "Some of the operational aspects are ludicrous and completely outrageous and, I think, we all need protecting from the way local authorities are using Ripa. This is about saying 'no more' - let's have more safeguards and better scrutiny."



James Welch, a lawyer from Liberty which is representing Ms Paton, said: "We are asking this tribunal to declare that the surveillance powers used to watch Ms Paton were unlawful. This is not about the money - it's about the legal principle."



It is alleged a council official made notes documenting the comings and goings of the mother-of-three and her partner, Tim Joyce, for nearly three weeks to find out if the family lived at an address in the catchment area for Lilliput First School.



Ms Paton questioned why officials did not simply knock on the door and speak to her if they doubted her story.



Ripa, dubbed a "snooper's charter", is used to monitor relatively trivial offences by some local councils.



The hearing comes as it was learned that Ripa - introduced in 2000 to give the police, security services and Revenue and Customs the powers to spy on people in the fight against crime and terrorism - will be used to track down parents who refuse to pay child support.



Investigators will be given access to the phone and internet records of thousands of fathers who lie about their wealth or refuse to co-operate with the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

School admissions are a dinner party hot topic of conversation along with property prices, Gordon Nardell, representing the family, told the hearing's judging panel.

Mr Nardell said: "The complainants have and were found to have played by the rules but this local authority played fast and loose."



He told the hearing her family could had been proven to have been living in the right area by other means than spying.



He added: "It's a hot topic at the moment. School admissions are second only or joint first with property prices in pubs and around dinner tables in the south."



He said the case was about "liberty" and the "extraordinary powers" of local authorities.



The family was watched 21 times over three weeks around February last year, the hearing was told.

Mr Nardell said it was "quite extraordinary" the surveillance was authorised.



After revealing how family members were reported as being watched in a log, he added: "It speaks for itself in terms of its extent."



Investigators were watching "comings and goings" from the family's home address and following a car, he said.



Mr Nardell added: "There is plainly an interference with home life."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss