Today saw a superb piece from the always excellent Daily Mash which is a parody of the news stories about use of RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) by local authorities to 'snoop' on dog walkers.
Now RIPA is an interesting bit of legislation, and is one that I am personally acquainted with having endured a seemingly endless training course with Kent Police relating to it, and the 'sister' act - CPIA. It does actually have fairly robust safeguards regarding the use of the provisions therein and the consequences for anyone who steps out of line.
It all comes down to a little mnemonic - JAPAN. Any investigations must be Justified, Auditable, Proportionate, Authorised and Necessary. If your investigations do not fulfill all criteria, watch out, because it is you who carry the can for it.
Now, I am a dog owner who does pick up after my charge, and it makes me really angry when people don't do it. It is selfish and basically acting like a prick. However, is the use of directed surveillance really proportionate in the matter of dog walkers not picking up after their pooch has a poo-poo? I would submit not, it is an example of legislation creep where powers put in place for fairly specific reasons are being used in situations it was never designed for.
It would be interesting to see if anyone charged with not clearing up after their dog gets full disclosure (local authorities are notoriously bad at disclosure, they don't have the staff or training, no disclosure is abuse of process and should lead to cases being thrown out of court) of the evidence or if public interest immunity is sought on the surveillance that gets them to court in the first place. I would imagine a number of magistrates would be quite scathing of what amounts to the abuse of RIPA powers in cases such as this.
Who knows perhaps these covert, dog walking, surveillance officers have seen the episode of the Day Today where they talk about the IRA using dog bombs and are just being vigilant?
Watch out for these bastards, it'll not be long before they demand that we all collect our own shit to be sent off for dietary analysis, it'll be for own good. . .