Monday, September 08, 2008

Those Anti-terrorism Laws...

... were always supposed to be used in extremis, yes? They were definitely not going to be abused but used only to save stout British men, women and children being blown to smithereens by whichever bunch of lunatic nutters had a bee in their bonnet this week, right?

And when the government keeps on passing yet more fucking laws that infringe our freedoms, they too are only to be used in the most extreme circumstances. We can trust them, right?

So, via Obnoxio, how have we been doing on those anti-terrorism laws?
Sir Jeremy Beecham, the acting chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said last night: "Councils are tuned into people's fears about the potential overzealous use of these crime-fighting powers. They know that they're only to be used to tackle residents' complaints about serious offences, like when benefit cheats are robbing hard-working taxpayers or fly-by-night traders are ripping off vulnerable pensioners."

Uh-huh. That's right, Jeremy; create the demons of evil and picture them robbing poor, vulnerable pensioners. Oh, and the chiiiiiildreeeeeen, of course.
He added: "Councils do not use these powers to mount fishing expeditions. First and foremost it is about protecting the public, not intruding on privacy. Crime-busting powers are targeted at suspected criminals and used only when absolutely necessary."

I can't help thinking that these councils' definition of "absolutely necessary" is rather different from mine. Shall we see what they have been up to?
Smokers, drivers and even emails are being monitored
  • Newcastle City Council used the Act to monitor noise levels from smoking shelters at two different licensed premises. The council has twice used the legislation to monitor noise from a vet’s practice following a complaint about barking.

  • Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council used it to deal with 16 complaints about barking dogs.

  • Derby Council made sound recordings at a property following a complaint about noisy children.

  • Peterborough Council investigated the operation of the blue badge scheme for disabled drivers.

  • Poole Council used it to detect illegal fishing in Poole Harbour.

  • Basingstoke Council used photographic surveillance against one of its own refuse collectors after allegations he was charging residents for a service that should be free. The operation was dropped when it was decided the allegation was false.

  • Aberdeenshire Council admitted using the Scottish version of the Act to request the name and address of a mobile phone user as part of an investigation into offences under the Weights and Measures Act.

  • Easington council put a resident’s garden under camera surveillance after a complaint from neighbours about noise.

  • Canterbury City Council used CCTV surveillance and an officer’s observations to monitor illegal street trading.

  • Brighton and Hove council launched four operations against graffiti artists.

  • Torbay Council accessed an employee’s emails after an allegation that suspect material had been sent. A second employee was investigated over the “use of council vehicle for personal gain”.

  • Westminster City Council covertly filmed a locksmith following allegations of fraud.

  • Durham County Council obtained authorisation to monitor car boot sales during an investigation into the sale of counterfeit goods.

Power in the hands of local authorities

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act allows for the interception of communications, acquisition and disclosure of data relating to communications, carrying-out of surveillance, use of covert intelligence sources and access to encrypted or password-protected data.

It can be evoked by public servants on the grounds of national security, and for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime, preventing disorder, public safety, protecting public health, or in the interests of the UK’s economic well-being. Councils were first granted use of the legislation in 2003.

This is what happens when you give these tedious little fuckers any kind of power. Power does corrupt—we know this and yet we continue to hand over more and more power to the state in order to fulfill the eradication of our own little betes noire.

And yes, I know that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 is supposed to constrain the extent to which councils can spy on you, but that isn't really relevant—first, because it's not working and second because these fuckers should never have had these powers in the first place.

As my impecunious Athenian friend has noted, there is a new smoking consultation out which has an interesting question.
Via Alex Massie, I see that our political masters are taking soundings on the possibility of further clampdowns on the rights of smokers.
Question 12: Do you believe that more should be done by the Government to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke within private dwellings or in vehicles used primarily for private purposes? If so, what do you think could be done?

I am not a smoker, and I do not deny the harmful effects of regular smoking on your health or that of your family. For the state to presume that it has any right to regulate my conduct in the privacy of my home, though, is a greater evil by far.

Indeed it is. But at least when smoking in the privacy of your own home is banned, we know what law the councils will be using to try to catch you breaking that law, eh?

If there is one thing that history surely should have taught us by now it is that, when you give the state power, several things happen:
  1. The state will abbuse that power

  2. The state will use the power to grant itself more power

  3. Freedom will decrease

  4. The state agents will attempt to ensure that they are exempt from the constraints thereby imposed

Christ on a crutch! when will people fucking learn? Are the people of this country collectively insane? Surely the famous definition of insanity is that of attempting the same thing again and again and hoping for a different outcome?

Fucking hell, what a bunch of cunts.


leg-iron said...

They can already stop me smoking in my home because I'm self employed. The little room I use as an office can be deemed a 'place of work' and although nobody else ever goes in there, they can stop me smoking. Well, they can try.

If I see a car parked across the street with a knob-end in it, I'll film it and put it on YouTube. I have a 30x optical zoom on my camera so that face will be clear. If they enter my home, every moment of that visit will be filmed and put on YouTube. Including the part where I regard them as burglars and respond instinctively as advised by that nice Mr. Straw.

Any neighbourhood children who think they're going to earn a nice backhander from the Gestapo should be made aware that I spent some time in the past butchering pigs, and know how to turn an animal into unrecognisable freezer-stock.

I don't currently have a car but I am tempted, after reading this, to buy an old banger, park it on the drive and SORN it, and then spend my evenings sitting in it smoking.

Secondhand smoke requires the presence of another person. A non-smoking person at that. If you don't like my secondhand smoke, don't visit my house. If you visit and say you're breathing in the smoke I've paid for and been taxed on, I'm going to charge you for it.

It's no loss. The Righteous aren't welcome here anyway.

Rob said...

"the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 is supposed to constrain the extent to which councils can spy on you"

Just as castle walls are useless without men to defend them, so any laws passed to restrain the power of the state are useless without vigorous action to observe and restrain the state. In our case we have the state in charge of policing the state's excesses - not exactly a recipe for freedom from the abuse of state power.

Anonymous said...

It's very reassuring to see these matters being so thoroughly dealt with by those bastions of democracy, our 'free' press.

Surreptitious Evil said...

All valid points but can we please, please stop calling RIPA an "Anti-Terrorism Law". It isn't and it was never supposed to be such.

Yes, RIPA Part III, is excessive, illiberal and unworkable. Yes, it was sold as necessary because of the use of crypto by terrorists and paedophiles (and, as far as I am aware, has been used so far against 1 eco-crusty), but Parts I and II were always intended for use against the full range of crimes and administrative and regulatory offences.

Yes, councils are ridiculously prurient and stupidly over-zealous. Yes, crimes should be investigated by the police, not some pointy nosed clip-board wielding jobsworth . Yes, oversight of RIPA breaches and abuses is weak (but not absent - see the {rather broken website} Alison Halford case.) Yes, there are far too many intrusive and, frankly, fucking ridiculous laws.

Yes, the Terrorism Acts (2000, 2003 & 2006) are being abused. But that does not make RIPA an anti-terrorism law.

This sliding of derogatory labels is a standard tactic for the statist cunts that rule us. We should try to rise above it.

Anonymous said...

DK, just how would YOU deal with benefit cheats and those who by their antisocial behaviour make the life of their neighbours a misery? There is not a clear cut line between dropping a fag end and swindling the tax payer out of thousands by lying about your disability. Where and how would you draw the line?

Roger Thornhill said...

Anon, such behaviour is surely the domain of the Police, not a local council bod.

Anonymous said...

PROBLEM is that SOME of the claimed "abuses" of RIPA are not.
For example the "noise abatement Act" already existed long before RIPA. Probably still does.
So the Local Authorities already had the power to investigate and prevent excessive noise. (many complaints were found to be unjustified)and much else.

Similarly investigating benefit fraudsters and employees fraudulently claiming to be sick and much else.
I rather think that ALL investigatory actions, EXCEPT the use of telephone and email records and the "right to enter" (so much for my home being a castle then) were already available and used. Usually properly AND rightly before this bunch of nerds criminalised pretty well everything.(what's the betting that Hairperson seeks to ban wanking in the next year?)

RIPA though IS a totalitarian move (one of MANY) which IS now being massively abused and probably by mentally incapable Bliar graduates!!! (aka CUNTS)
The media with few exceptions (hats off to Henry Porter) FAILED to critically examine.

I just happen to KNOW Sir Jeremy. No no - he is NOT a friend. He was once the leader of Newcastle City Council and is a criminal lawyer (that is a lawyer , not a criminal).
He is duty bound to defend Local Authorities and I suspect that relatively few of the 400 or so Authorities are actually abusing RIPA. Those who do are exposed and quite right too. May THEY rot in hell.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Roger, in theory. Of course it should be. If I were to postulate that ordinary unpaid citizens could report their neighbours to the police for persistant anti-social behaviour, cheating the system etc, but council jobsworths should not be paid to do so, would you agree?

Anonymous said...

Noise abatement outside pubs.
Well had the stupid twats NOT banned smoking in pubs then the smokers would NOT be outside.
The Law of "unintended consequences".
But WAS it "unintended"? IF pubs continue to close at the current rates then the opportunity for politics to be discussed by the "common man" (oops should that be the common person?) is MUCH reduced. Think about it!

Serf said...

DK, just how would YOU deal with benefit cheats and those who by their antisocial behaviour make the life of their neighbours a misery?

I somehow think that benefit cheating would be a little difficult in a Libertarian world, what with no benefits and all.

There are plenty of laws in existence that could be used against such people, they didn't need any more.

Elby the Beserk said...

Couple of things. Long before RIPA I called in the local noise pollution people re a dog left in its backyard all day, and barking 9 till 5. This is see as a perfectly valid use of your local council.

Re benefits fraud, having an ex and a son who have both worked in it, I can tell you that they are utterly entrammelled in the Human Rights Act with regard to snooping on people. So why this is not applied in the case of councils, I do not know.

Whatever, anyone spies on me, they'll be shitting camera lenses for a long time, that's for sure.

Longrider said...

There is not a clear cut line between dropping a fag end and swindling the tax payer out of thousands by lying about your disability.

WTF!?! Well, if you can't see it...

Elby the Beserk said...

What is clear is that under New Stasi, crimes against the state are far more serious than crimes against the person.

Anonymous said...

Longrider, I'm assuming you are deliberately misunderstanding my comment. Of course there is a difference between dropping a fag and swindling the tax payer. Those are two extremes and even thickos like me can see the difference. What is far from clear is where in the huge grey area between the two would you draw the line.

Serf, you are quite right. In a Libertarian world there would be no benefit (and many would say quite right too) But until we reach that Nirvana, what would you do? How would you get the facts to the authorities? Elby the Berserk told the noise people, is that snooping or good citizenship?

ShirkingFromHome said...


Longrider said...

Using extremes in that way is a poor means of illustrating your point and so undermined what you were trying to say. The grey area is far too far from both of those positions. Not least because as you admit - it is, indeed clear that there is a difference; a blindingly obvious one.

Yes, I was being deliberately provocative ;)

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the jobsworths who enforce all these laws go on strike for a good long time. Then sack all the bastards.

Cyclefree said...

What they intend using this disgusting little law for next is set out in today's Evening Standard: DEFRA is proposing to make gardens subject to building regulations so that town hall fuckwits can dictate what we can grow in our gardens. Apparently, they want to impose restrictions on fast-growing plants, trees and flowers so as to cut household waste.

Personally I won't have any problem with my garden waste as I intend putting the sharp yuccas I shall be growing up the backside of any councillor or petty official foolish enough to come anywhere near my garden. If NuLab thinks it can take on the gardeners of Britain I very much hope it will have met its match.

Kinderling said...

The Communist Government wants everyone to be an infringer, to be fined and to get their DNA on record.

Anonymous said...

"He is a criminal lawyer and has to support the councils", has to? Why FFS, let them obey the law, he ought? to know what it is, or does he. Still it is a nice earner for an overpaid lawyer, better than having to look for clients and hope they have the money to pay.

Another Anon