Councils told to stop abusing secret cameras

Councils are to be stopped from misusing covert surveillance powers to spy on litterbugs and dog owners, under new controls outlined by the Home Secretary today.

The crackdown follows a series of embarrassing cases in which local authorities were found to have targeted members of public with secret cameras and undercover officers. In one case a council used powers designed to tackle serious crime and terrorism to discover whether a family had put their bins out on the wrong day.

Councillors or senior officials might in future be required to approve their use under plans set out in a review of changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "The Government has absolutely no interest in spying on law-abiding people going about their everyday lives. I don't want to see these powers being used to target people for putting their bins out on the wrong day or for dog fouling offences."

Isabella Sankey, director of policy at civil liberties pressure group Liberty, said: "We hope that the Government is ready to restrict broadly-drafted powers that have been widely used and abused."