A city councillor has slammed Lancaster City Council for using terror laws to catch dog foulers.
Liz Scott said she was “appalled” by what she called the council’s “abuse” of the Government’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). But Lancaster City Council said its actions were within the law, which has since been changed.
A national newspaper revealed that many councils across the UK had used covert surveillance powers designed to combat terrorism and organised crime – a total of 2,800 operations lasting up to 90 days – with some being used for such matters as dog fouling or noise nuisance. A council in Cumbria even used the laws to tackle feeding of pigeons.
Lancaster City Council carried out two surveillance operations authorised by RIPA in 2012, lasting 11 days.
In one of them, staff watched out for dog foulers on Sandylands Promenade from “an elevated viewpoint”. In total 11 fixed penalty notices for £80 were given out.
Coun Scott said: “As a councillor I was not aware of this method of monitoring local people over dog fouling and we were not informed that this was taking place.
“Yes, we need to nail terror suspects but (RIPA) should not be used for dog fouling.”
But a council spokesperson said these exercises were publicised at the time and were “aimed at identifying and reducing instances of dog fouling in two particular and chronic hot spots in the district”.
“Lancaster City Council is mindful of its responsibilities both to individuals and to the wider community when considering any enforcement action. The reliance on RIPA laws by the council is therefore used sparingly, in accordance with the legislation and only when it is deemed to be necessary and proportionate to the objectives and intended outcome of the operation.”
The law changed in November 1 2012 meaning councils can no longer use RIPA to catch dog foulers.