RIPA was introduced to fight serious crime and help prevent terrorist attacks, but has allowed council officers to spy on people for a range of misdemeanours. The powers allow councils to use “physical surveillance”, giving them legal permission to follow and monitor dog walkers and shopkeepers.
Other Councils in the North East are also near the top of this particular snooping league table.
Critics say there are too many examples of powers designed by Government in response to fears about terrorism being used for matters which they were never intended to cover.
DCC's spying record included surveillance against traders suspected of the possession, distribution and sale of counterfeit goods. A spokesman said: “The authorised surveillance operations were approved in respect of retailers, generally in relation to sales of age restricted products. “All of the above took place for reasons of the prevention or detection of crime.”
You can draw your own conclusions by reading the full story as reported in today's Newcastle Journal: