Island Labour condemns ‘Big Brother abuse of police motoring operation’ (Updated)

Officers from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and IW Council benefit fraud investigators intruded into the private lives of Islanders say Island Labour

This in from the Isle of Wight Labour Party. In their own words. Ed

The IW Labour Party has voiced concern at the Police led ‘operation evening light’, reported in the Isle of Wight County Press on 30 November.

According to the report the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and IW Council benefit fraud investigators were invited by the Police to join in an operation focused on targeting bad drivers.

Intruding in private lives
These other agencies used the invitation to intrude Big Brother-style into the private lives of Islanders going about their normal business, asking them for private and personal information that in most cases was none of the business of these agencies in this setting.

Law-abiding Islanders were interrupted in their daily lives and quizzed about their National Insurance numbers, who their employers were and who they lived with, in a seemingly random attempt to crackdown on benefit fraud.

“Entirely inappropriate invitation”
The IW Labour Party Chair, Deborah Gardiner, said, “While Labour Party members naturally disapprove of benefit fraud, the Police seem to have issued an entirely inappropriate invitation to the agencies who deal with this fraud to join in a motoring operation and to interrogate innocent people about their private lives.

“It certainly smacks of Big Brother and I particularly find the participation of the IW Council disgraceful.

“We will be seeking an explanation for the invitation to these agencies from the local Chief Inspector, for comment from the new Police Commissioner, and asking the Island’s MP to condemn this intrusion into Islander’s civil liberties.”

Read council leader, David Pugh’s response.

Readers’ comments on Facebook
Update 4.Dec.12 This story raised quite a bit of for and against debate on Facebook, so for those who aren’t on FB, we’ve added the comments below.

FB comments on Police / DWP stop story

Storified by · Tue, Dec 04 2012 03:54:20

As these people was ‘asked’ surly they didn’t have to give there information out if they didn’t want to? But on the other hand, why not? These people that do commit benefit fraud have to be caught out, one way or another. At least they are trying to do something about it.Zara Evelin Flynn
i wasnt stopped but if i had of been i would of welcomed the chat intusive or not. fraud is fraud the system is there for those in need not those as reported in this weeks press who claimed thousands just because they could.Lisa Thorner
and how many "Benefit Fraudsters" did they catch?????Jay Williams
It was an excellent idea to catch the thieving scum, benefits cheats….Maybe that’s what is concerning Labour…Was it mainly their voters that were caught???lol I had to wait 2 hours to get a trye repaired because there were so many "panic buyers". Ay least the number of accidents caused by illegal tyres might go down this winter.Scott Newman
Actually I think it makes a lot of sense agencies working together, otherwise you would have to set up 3 road stops like this.Its a bit like the road being dug up for gas and then relayed and a week later along come BT to dig it up again and i’m sure we have all said at some point why cant they work together.For me I have nothing to hide and right now the country needs to claw back every penny after many years of Labour mis spending money the country did not have.Alistair Dickinson
If they have nothing to hide there isnt a problem….. The people that dont deserve benefits should be caught by any means.Helen Vernau
How many actual ‘benefit fraudsters” were caught and more importantly, how much did it cost me to catch them? Last time I looked, we didn’t live in Nazi Germany. Yet more establishment divide and conquer tactics – seems to be working – be careful what you wish for – next they’ll be asking if you have ever driven over the speed limit or stolen a pen from your place of work! The race to the bottom continues…………….Paul Woodcock
Yeah, Paul! You carry on working and paying your taxes so’s people can claim them in benefits whilst working a full-time "cash in hand" job.Scott Newman
Even if one when you read any got caught for any amount then it may make others look over their shoulders even then they try find other Ways to fiddle look in paper an amount of x thousands is nothing what they think is their RightBill Remnant
Does anyone not think that it’s wrong for the police and benefits agencies to intrude on your personal life for no good reason?? People should protect their rights more before they have non left!! As much as I hate benefit thieves, I quite like my basic human rights!Joe N Laura Mason
But it is for a good reason!!Zara Evelin Flynn
Really?? What reason is good enough that you give up the right to any privacy!! What about the billions that is spent on illegal wars?? Or white collar criminals that get away with billions of pounds worth of fraud?? Or tax dodgers like Starbucks?Joe N Laura Mason
How else are they going to find people claiming benefits illegally? And its not like they was digging behind peoples backs, they was asking them. That’s not the subject that is being spoken about though, even though I don’t work and get benefits I wouldn’t care if I did get questioned as have nothing to hide :)Zara Evelin Flynn
That’s what I’m trying to ascertain Scott. How many people who claim "benefits whilst working a full-time "cash in hand" job" did the operation catch? I hate wasted money – it’s just as bad to waste public money on the police and HMRC clogging up the roads as it is for someone to be fraudulently claiming money!Paul Woodcock
fine to say "if they have nothing to hide…" but what about the police? this joint dwp/police sting was put out as a dangerous driving campaign , but it wasn’t , that was a lie.i don’t think people like what they did mainly because we were lied to.it was misuse because the dangerous driving that it was supposed to be about was not their agenda , ie they were not looking for dangerous drivers at all , the were looking for benefit fraudsters.Bruce Steers
And actually, while I think about it, is it an offence to be claiming benefits and driving a car?Paul Woodcock
Hmmm, "benefit cheat". Who here thinks that watching downloaded Premier League football matches streamed from Russia is a form of "benefit cheat"?Steven Ward
there are tried and tested ways of catching benefit fraudsters , who incidentally cost the tax payer far less than the white collar criminals . the cost to society of benefit fraudsters is further reduced by the fact that they are more likely to spend their money localy unlike "the white collar scum ;) " who take it all away to tax havens. Not saying it is right to commit benefit fraud nor is it right to commit traffic offenses , however the real villains are the ones employing benefit fraudsters in order to maximize their profits . we all know who they are , but nothing will ever be done. When they build dhss central ( colditz ) in leeds , about 50% of the workforce were on benefit whilst working . if the government can’t sort big problems like that right on their doorstep then why the hell bother with piddling efforts like this one. Even our mp is at it with his bending of the rules . so eat that tory wanabees .Stephen Smith
Someone forgot the basis of our culture, which starts by assuming we have not broken the law unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. This episode was an outrageous intrusion by one arm of government, which apparently went on a fishing expedition, apparently with Council connivance. These people need to remember that they are supposed to be the SERVANTS of the people, not their masters!Chris Wilmott
At least people will (possibly) think twice before working and claiming. It was worth it just as a deterrent. So it may have been put out in the media that it was a "dangerous driving/vehicle safety campaign" butu what does it matter… Would you like the police to call petrol stations when they’re being robbed to let the armed robbers know that will be along in 5 minutes? The "surprise" factor paid dividends, methinks.Scott Newman
Would be interesting if they had caught anybody, if so, then whichever way it was done it was worth it.Zara Evelin Flynn
…Oh and Comrade Smith….I’m not a " tory" anything…Just someone who see’s the bigger picture… without political blinkers….AND you’ll be pleased to know that Leeds City Council, who are more likely to be responsible for "employing" the workforce on the D.H.S.S. building you mentioned, is LABOUR.Scott Newman
scott , didn’t mention your name once . As for bigger picture i think you need to think bigger still , if the people at the top played by the rules then the people at the bottom might follow , till then i can not sit in judgement of them . i chose not to get involved , i teach my kids by example that money and material possessions are not the be all and end all , to use old tech and mend and make do , cutting my cloth so to speak , however i can see , just like anyone with eyes that our role models are rotten thieving scum from the top down . hardly surprising that we find ourselves where we do today . not making excuses for those who cheat the system at any level . however , i know which money i would go for first if i were the government and its the big money . oh and i’m not a communist or anything else :) . i would say that you might refrain from teaching me to use words like scum though , lest your offended .Stephen Smith
there are rules for a reason zara . and if they have been broken then that may well be as punishable as the original crime . not saying that is the case but if it is then it is us who pay the bill for our officials errors . funny eh :)Stephen Smith
I cant see how rules have been broken by 3 departments working together as 1 to crack down on cheats, unless i am missing somwthing, or just far to tired to understand what else you mean, been a long day. Your never gonna stop cheats and lies etc, as the system is far to easy to manipulate for some, and yet my daughter cant ever ride a bike or something similar outside, as they will not fund the equipment needed for her, and we on benifits cannot afford to buy her one, yet some people get given a paid for flat etc.Zara Evelin Flynn
not sure in this case Zara , i’m not a lawyer . i do know that there will be many lawsuits won this and every year where our officials have acted illegally . this extends right through central government , local government and the lea , the health service , police and even the armed forces . my point is that all those payouts are made from our colective taxes and funnels cash from front line resources . like our daughters vital equipment . the policy on mobility aids on the isle of wight is or was at the last time of asking was " if you don’t need a wheelchair etc to move around inside your home then you are not entitled to the equipment for outside use" , this may have changed in recent years but i would need to see confirmation of this . i don’t know about you but i would rather see people helped rather than hindered . the value of this operation by the three agencies is questionable , as are its ethics . Benefit cheats won’t fix the hole in the economy , the correct taxing of big business and its beneficiaries will. not saying that we should ignore the smaller issues , but when i mop the floor i start in the deepest part of the mess .Stephen Smith
I’d like to know if anyone who refers to others as benefit cheats have honestly never paid cash for tradesman or car repairs etc to get a cheaper bill , it’s all cheating the system just on different sides of the fence . Rob Hayward
She is in a wheelchair, although we dont use it indoors, as space is limited. I couldnt tell you what the policy is, all i no is that due to goverment cutbacks no one can afford to spend the £400+ that it will cost for one.Zara Evelin Flynn
Only on the Island…………Etty Mckinley
good point rob , its a wedge after all , there’s always a thin end .Stephen Smith

Image: maikel_nai under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 3rd December, 2012 2:56pm

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Filed under: Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Police, Top story

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50 Comments on "Island Labour condemns ‘Big Brother abuse of police motoring operation’ (Updated)"

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JamesP

You have to wonder what it has to do with road traffic offences. I doubt that they’re entitled to ask, unless Pughtin passed a bye-law about it last week…

Mr Magoo

There is something underhand and sinister about this. What has using mobile telephones and not wearing a seat belt got to do with benefit fraud?
I agree 100 per cent with the Isle of Wight Labour and hope it pursues this issue on our behalf with the backing on our Conservative Member of Parliament.

Dalek

This is an outrageous intrusion into people’s lives for entirely inappropriate reasons. If I had been stopped for a defective brake light or whatever, I would hope that I could refuse to answer questions about my NI number (which I can’t remember anyway) and my personal living arrangements. These are clearly irrelevant to any motoring offence.

Terri
I wasn’t stopped, but if I had been I wouldn’t have minded at all as I have nothing to hide and greatly resent having to work whilst some fraudsters sit on their backsides and are better off than I am by fraudulently drawing benefits. I think it was an excellent idea for the police and other agencies to work together. It makes a pleasant change to see… Read more »
Dalek

Not the old “I’ve nothing to hide” argument. That’s how our civil rights are eroded, through complacent, holier than thou attitudes.

tryme
The reponse to such intrusions is commonly ‘If you are innocent you have nothing to fear’. Terri may feel happy about this example, but it paves the way for the Police to intrude into his/her (or his/her friends & family’s) lives in another way at another time, when s/he may wish s/he had spoken out earlier. Isn’t there a ‘sus’ law that says there must be some… Read more »
tryme

On reflection, as it wasn’t the police asking the intrusive questions, they can’t be blamed on that score. But for issuing the invites to the other agencies & lending those agencies spurious authority – yes they can be.

Alistair
Actually I think it makes a lot of sense agencies working together, otherwise you would have to set up 3 road stops like this. Its a bit like the road being dug up for gas and then relayed and a week later along come BT to dig it up again and i’m sure we have all said at some point why cant they work together. For me… Read more »
Rea
No, Alistair, it is nothing like roads being dug up by gas, phone etc. I too have nothing to hide, and so far I have been a law abiding citizen. However, this collaboration goes a step too far in my opinion. For a start, the information that the DWP hold about me is private and confidential, this confidentiality would be breached the moment they shared it with… Read more »
prewitt parrot
Well said Rea 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. Many will become completely incapacitated by it and consequently reliant on the safety net of the welfare state. Unfortunately that safety net is being removed in ever increasing bounds by the government so keen to also erode our civil liberties, as in this case, and to… Read more »
BRIAN

If you are looking for fraud, Rea, we could start with the MP’s. In addition, benefit fraud only accounts for 1% of the entire benefits budget

Cynic
@Alistair “right now the country needs to claw back every penny after many years of Labour mis spending money the country did not have. Never let the historical facts get in the way of political propaganda! :-)) From 1997 -2008 (11 years for those mathematically challenged) the ratio of debt to GDP was BELOW that inherited from the previous Tory government. 2008 brought the global financial crisis… Read more »
wightywight

@cynic:

….and *we* had to buy a big part of a couple of banks ….

WW

Cynic

Simon & Sal- how about doing a quick survey on how many people can remember their NI number and then comparing that figure with how many police and DWP people can remember theirs?

Maybe with even how many times police and DWP people were asked to show their warrant cards/ID during the round-up?

BRIAN

This little caper is certainly a nasty development and I would question its legality. I would refuse to answer such questions and, if arrested, would be interested to know the basis for the arrest. I have never been in contravention of the law but this would result in a first occasion for me.

block8
I was out and about for work and saw the camera vans at Lushington and outside St Marys’ I counted about 8 ‘official’ individuals in yellow jackets holding clipboards and things in Fairlee Road. I assume there were others on other roads. Unusually I didn’t get stopped although I was driving one of their ‘easy’ targets namely a white transit van. With all the vehicles and man… Read more »
Cynic

Mmmm- camera vans? I wonder if they were authorised under the RIPA legislation and by whom? A defense lawyer might well ask that question in Court.

Cynic

One wonders just how admissible in law the evidence gathered in that operation would really be. Were the drivers cautioned first? If so, for what offence?

Mike

Is it illegal to demand your NI number.What would happen if you refused to give it?

wightywight

@Mike:

absolutely nothing. You are not obliged to give that information to anyone at any roadside….

WW

Mike

thanks WW

Nobby
Why do people of the Isle of Wight think that just because it happened here, its the first time it’s ever happened and let’s question it’s legality? This “Government” is cutting jobs in the police, council services, civil servants even tax inspectors. Closer working and co-operation is the only way these agencies will be able to get their jobs done. At least they questioned people to their… Read more »
wightywight
@Nobby: You know, some people actually guard fearlessly their rights and freedoms…hard won and fought for over many, many years. So people do question things on many levels….if they didn’t you can just imagine (research if you like) the issues that have been overturned by the community when those in power *overstepped their authority. It is almost certainly not legal to ask people about their NI number… Read more »
tryme

Yes, even better, why don’t we just have roving gangs of officials & Police working continually from door to door, “at least it’s face to face”. The innocent have no need for fear, afterall…… ;->

Cynic
Perhaps @Nobby should reflect on Pastor Martin Newmoller’s thoughts in Nazi Germany; First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me,… Read more »
Nobby

Godwin’s Law ?

Cynic

True- it is an example of Godwin’s Law. But was he boasting or complaining?

You might recall that he was advertised as being “every weeknight at 5pm on Fox News Channel”- possibly the most right-wing of US channels

Cynic

@nobby “This “Government” is cutting jobs in the police, council services, civil servants even tax inspectors. Closer working and co-operation is the only way these agencies will be able to get their jobs done.”

How long until the Government privatises these civil service snooping exercises? Do you want a G4S wally (“Yesterday I wuz filling shelves, today I iz peaked capped authority”) doing the checks?

Don Smith

Who are going to investigate the police? Do the police declare their payments for moonlighting?

Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) should broaden their net, and not just on our roads.

Island Monkey

Sounds like the bumbling idiots at County Hall agreed to this.

It was clearly an unlawful operation and no-one was under any obligation to provide the information asked for.

Shocking behaviour from the council, police and other agencies who love to exceed their powers.

prewitt parrot

A stab in the dark guess would be that they are abusing powers put in place to apprend illegal immigrants working in the UK.
Or possibly anti-terror laws, as we know that Councils have abused such laws in the past to spy on ‘bin crimes’and other trivial offences. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3333366/Half-of-councils-use-anti-terror-laws-to-spy-on-bin-crimes.html

no.5
I would rather the benefits agency did its job properly and didn’t need the help of a traffic sting… this is indicative of the inefficiency of the department who should better vet in the first place, follow up better and use proper resources to catch offenders. I feel the police have a far better job to do doing their stated task in the action without delaying and… Read more »
tryme

I presume the DWP thought it would be good publicity for them. I think we can say it has backfired. As no.5 indicates, the operation smacks of their not having a grip on their usual duties…..

BRIAN
If this nonsense is ever tried again the best policy is to answer a question with a question. eg What is your NI Number? Why do you wish to know? We are checking on benefit fraud Do you suspect me of benefit fraud? Keep this going for as long as possible. During the war the Germans occupied a certain town in Holland. A plain clothes gestapo man… Read more »
greenhey
Most drink-drivers are caught because they are driving without a seat-belt, using their phone, or driving with defective lights, or similar.Or else they are involved in an accident. It’s only when stopped that, if the police have grounds to suspect drinking, they do the test. However if they found ( for example) a stash of drugs in the stopped car, they would deal with that too. In… Read more »
tryme

So you get stopped for a defective side light & can expect the rest of your life to be an open book to whoever the Police choose to introduce to you……?

Cynic
@greenhey £Police traffic stop for some reason…. if they found ( for example) a stash of drugs in the stopped car, they would deal with that too….In essence this does not seem any different to me.” Then, would these sample questions also be of the “same essence”? “Show me your TV licence?…. “Has your dog defecated on the pavement recently?”… “Have you any car parking fines outstanding?”… Read more »
tryme

I look forward to hearing of drivers being stopped & checked for mismanagement of public money, failure to adequately consult the public on numerous issues, suspicious senior management expense account claims, dodgy alliances of politicians with private companies…..oh no, these would be dealt with (if at all) in a much more respectful manner…..

tryme

….tax fraud……

rjc

240 cars stopped, 25 benefit fraud cases to be investigated, that’s a result in my book.

tryme

Numbers “to be investigated” are probably going to sound more impressive in a press release than the numbers later on actually found acting fraudulently.

Probably many or most or all of those “to be investigated” were people who didn’t have their Ninos on them at the time & are having to produce them at the police station at a later date – with NFA.

Cynic

How many driving offenders were charged out of the 240 which was claimed to be the main objective??

rjc
I bet the numbers sound impressive to the ones they did not catch, I hope it has put the wind up a lot of benefit fraudsters. Dozens of motoring offences, even if it was just one vehicle that was not fit for the road, it has stopped a potential accident. But then these agencies, police, customs and excise, benefit fraud, border agency, etc are damned if they… Read more »
tryme
Noone here suggests that cars shouldn’t be stopped when they are defective in some way, rjc! We’re all in favour of saving from injury & death. The point of this topic has been that the Police invited the DWP to piggyback onto their work. “Putting the wind up fraudsters” whilst overrriding hard-fought civil liberties for everyone else, is a very slippery slope. As well as antagonising many… Read more »
Tom Evans

It appears to me that this type of check is covered by section 4 of PACE:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/60/section/4

– as one of the purposes is to check for offences other than a traffic offence. If so it would require authorisation and for other criteria to be met.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/authorisations_for_road_checks_u/

Cynic
@Tom Evans “It appears to me that this type of check is covered by section 4 of PACE:” ……………………………………. The Intro to this section reads “This section shall have effect in relation to the conduct of road checks by police officers for the purpose of ascertaining whether a vehicle is carrying— (a)a person who has committed an offence other than a road traffic offence or a [F1vehicle]… Read more »
greenhey
if the police followed their own guidelines, the people stopped would have been visibly committing a driving offence, for example: 1.Speeding 2.Non-use of seat-belts ( in back as well as front) 3 Using phone while driving 4. Lighting-broken; using parking lights when headlights needed ( very common on IOW); using foglights wrongly. All of those are grounds to stop a vehicle. Once stopped, the police are free… Read more »
Cynic

@greenhey “I don’t understand why people think the police or other agencies with statutory powers need some pretext to actually enforce democratically-chosen laws of the land.”

Which agency other than the police and some HMRC officers are warranted by statute to stop, demand ID and question citizens in a public place? AFAIK the DWP does not.

wightywight
@Greenhey: Look, the POlice have quite wide powers, believe it or not, and they really don’t *need* to see any offence being committed to direct people (walking or driving) in varying ways. They only need to suspect an offence has taken place and that gets into extraordinarily subjective areas regarding what has taken place. The point here is this. The Police have the power and used it… Read more »
JamesP

“under false duress and false information”

And that’s the point. It means that the matter wouldn’t stand up in court if anyone chose to contest it. I rather doubt that the DWP persons prefaced any of their enquiries with ‘you don’t have to answer this..’

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