Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Friday, 29 May 2009

Jacqui Smith and RIPA

In April 2009 Jacqui Smith was reported as saying that councils have gone too far with using RIPA to snoop on people who commit minor offences such as littering and so on. The BBC says so here

She was to "launch a review after fears [that RIPA] was being used for "trivial offences". Mrs Rigby thinks it meant she was going to set up a committee, but it sounds like a good start.

But, it doesn't quite work out that way because in May 2009 Jacqui Smith is reported as having encouraged councils to recruit children to become "environmental volunteers", to report instances of littering and dog fouling as well as anti social behaviour, and people who put their bins out on the wrong day. It says so here

Also in May 2009 the Home Office, with Jacqui Smith as Home Secretary, was reported as giving increased powers to council employees such as dog wardens, car park attendants, park wardens and shopping centre guards to hand out on-the-spot fines of around £60 for misdemeanours - it says so here

Trained under the "Community Safety Accreditation Scheme" these people are known as "Accredited Persons".

Mrs R notes that this scheme isn't something new because The Police Reform Act (2002) (quote from Home Office site)
enabled Chief Constables to accredit employees of organisations who contribute towards community safety. People accredited under such a scheme are called Accredited Persons (APs) and can be identified by a nationally standardised badge which must be worn at all times.
According to the pdf "Acceptable Persons Powers" these are the "offences" these Accredited Persons have powers to deal with :-

They can issue fixed penalty notices for disorder, truancy, in respect of an excluded pupil in a public place, cycling on a footpath, dog fouling, graffiti and fly posting, littering, offences against dog control orders and certain byelaws

They have power to require the giving of name and address, power to deal with begging, power to require the surrender of alcohol, ditto for under 18s, power to seize tobacco from under 16s, power to remove abandoned vehicles, power to stop vehicle for testing, power to stop cycles, power to control traffic, power to direct traffic, power to photograph persons away from a Police station ...

... the list continues tabling offences for which Accredited Persons may issue fixed penalty notices, such as being in possession of Cannabis.

Now, Mrs Rigby remembers a time, it must be a million years ago, when bad people were arrested and could go to court proclaiming their innocence, or reasonable excuse. These days, with Jacqui Smith as Home Secretary, it doesn't even take a specially trained Police Officer or a PCSO to find somebody instantly guilty of a punishable offence, with summary justice handed out on the pavement.

Did Jacqui Smith, when she was speaking to the BBC, forget about these changes in the law when she complained about councils overstepping the mark? Did she forget she'd given ordinary people the power and authority to punish misdemeanours, and did she forget the budding army of pre-teen so-called "environmental volunteers" she's training to snoop on their neighbours?

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