Page last updated at 20:11 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

School place spying could stop

CCTV surveillance (AFP)
Poole council admitted using RIPA powers on 39 occasions

A council which spied on a local family suspected of lying about where they lived to get a school place may stop using covert surveillance.

Earlier this year a family applying for a school place in Poole, Dorset was monitored for nearly three weeks.

Poole Borough Council suspected them of lying about living in a certain school catchment area.

Councillors have now recommended that surveillance should not be used for school admission investigations.

Jenny Paton and her partner Tim Joyce were snooped on after it was wrongly suspected they had lied about living in the catchment area for Lilliput First School.

The council also made similar checks on two other families in the last year and admitted to using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) on 39 separate occasions since 2000.

John McBride, the council's chief executive, said: "Overall, council officers in Poole have made only modest use of RIPA legislation since its introduction in 2000.

"However, we acknowledge the level of public concern about the use made of RIPA legislation for matters relating to school admissions.

"Members of the committee have listened to these concerns and concluded that surveillance should not be used for school admissions.

"They have also made recommendations for further improving the council's procedures around its use of RIPA, which will be considered by the cabinet."

The recommendations will be considered by the council cabinet at a meeting on 2 December before a decision is made.

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