Alexi Mostrous
Times Online
May 31, 2008

Thousands of middle managers in local councils are being authorised to spy on people suspected of petty offences using powers designed to prevent crime and terrorism.

Even junior council officials are being allowed to initiate surveillance operations in what privacy campaigners likened to Eastern bloc police tactics.

The Home Office is expected to be urged by the Commons Home Affairs select committee to issue guidelines to councils on the type of operations in which surveillance can be used.

Amid increasing concern in Parliament that the UK is slowly becoming a surveillance society, the committee has looked at the operation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which some MPs say is being misused to focus on petty crime rather than serious offending.

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