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Surveillance State Comes to Lewisham

Having done some research about how it is possible for myself and my daughter to be harassed in such a manner, I have come to the conclusion that it is very easy. I do not know if The Met have actually got a proper warrant for what they are doing, but somehow I doubt it since such warrants need renewal every 3 months and our case has been going since March 2012. Intrusive surveillance is supposed to be reserved for terrorists!

The legislation which allows for ordinary people to be surveilled came in with the RIPA Act in 2000. RIPA is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act aka "Snoopers Charter".

The bodies which are allowed to use these powers are not just Millitary Intelligence and the police force, but councils and benefits agencies. So, you may be surveilled by your local Council and it will be entirely legal. For example, if you are suspected of allowing your dog to foul the pavements, then it is legitimate for the council to conduct Direct Surveillance, to spy on your activities outside your home. This could be done by CCTV camera, or by actual people following you or surveilling you from vehicles. Another example; if you were suspected of cohabiting, i.e. living with someone as if married, and you had declared yourself single on a benefits form, then it is legitimate for a benefits agency to spy on you.

Big Brother Watch published a report into the uses of RIPA by public bodies (excluding the police) which makes interesting reading. Amongst the many ways councils used RIPA included the surveillance of disabled people, to see if they really required care through Social Services. Also, many cases of councils using RIPA to spy upon families where there were thought to be child protection issues. The latter have hardly ever resulted in any action (children being removed, criminal convictions). In fact, much of the spying appears to be entirely fruitless resulting in no charges at all. In our case, it is probably "child protection" that Richard Hodgkiss has used to justify the surveillance, despite there never being ANY concern in a Social Worker's reports that I am anything other than a competent and loving parent. In our case RIPA is being used as a means to bully and harass. The cost to the taxpayer must be enormous.

Looking at official figures published by Statewatch, state snooping has mushroomed beyond control. Given that this does not include abuse of the powers, where warrants are NOT being signed it makes for worrying reading. In 2010, 55,000 warrants were granted for intercepting communications (phone calls, internet activity, texts). It seems likely that only a small percentage were to do with terrorism.

Political activists are also being targetted. Anyone who attends a demonstration may find themselves listed on a database, including details about their clothing, appearance, behaviour and of course, footage and photographs. The fact that most of these people have never committed a crime seems to be irrelevant. Do the police have Direct Surveillance warrants for everyone who attends a demonstration? John Catt, an 86 year old peaceful protestor is suing the police after they surveilled him for FOUR YEARS during his attendance at protests. Using the Data Protection Act, John was able to access files and see that they had even noted that he was "clean shaven"! To my mind, this is a complete waste of taxpayer's money and when police complain of being under-resourced we must now realise that it is a lie.

RIPA legislation allowing for Intrusive Surveillance, grants police authority to secretly enter a target's home and "bug" it. It also enables them to use informants. Informants are often paid to "befriend" those spied upon, they may be undercover police officers, or existing friends and neighbours of the target. Activists have been particularly badly hit by this tactic and even officers involved can end up claiming their lives have been ruined. Police officer Mark Kennedy infiltrated a group of environmental protestors for EIGHT YEARS and is now suing the police force that employed him - for failing to prevent him falling in love with an activist, of all things. He had sexual relations with at least 3 of them. Elsewhere TEN women are suing the police for being tricked into sexual relationships with informants. Children have been born from such liaisons and it is to be decided whether the police must bear some financial responsibility for them. RIPA does not sanction the use of sexual relationships with targets.

More on this topic:

Police Spies Stole Identities of Dead Children - A Guardian story, where once again activists were being spied upon by undercover police. There are many other stories linked from this one, some calling for a Public Inquiry into the tactics used by undercover police.