In a recent post I mentioned that one way of silencing opposition was the ‘won’t you think of the children’ ploy. A classic example in the letters page of yesterday’s Telegraph, from Sir Christopher Rose, Chief Surveillance Commissioner.
It is unfortunate that you repeated the criticism of local authorities for using their Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act covert surveillance powers against dog fouling. This is, at best, a half truth.
It is unlikely that the use of those powers would be necessary or proportionate in relation to fouling a pavement. But fouling a children’s playground is much more serious, as dog excrement contains a parasite which can cause blindness in children.
I suspect that many people would welcome the use of these powers to reduce that risk.
The risks he mentioned are minor, otherwise how could we possibly allow a family with young children to even keep a dog? Covert surveillance makes a tiny difference to that already small risk. This is critical in deciding whether a response is proportional, yet Sir Christopher does not even mention statistics, instead ‘Just think of the children!’
What is more this has never been discussed openly as a reason for use of these powers. It should not be for a bureaucrat who clearly has no idea of proportionality or of people’s concerns about covert surveillance to decide such things.