The BBC reported (and the rest of the mainstream media copied the story, often without attribution), about the enforcement of forthcoming Smoking Ban in England:
Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 21:38 GMT
Thousands to police smoking ban
By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News
Thousands of council staff are being trained to police the smoking ban in bars, restaurants and shops in England.
Ministers have given councils £29.5m to pay for staff, who will be able to give on-the-spot £50 fines to individuals and take court action against premises.
They will have the power to enter premises undercover, allowing them to sit among drinkers, and will even be able to photograph and film people.
Ian Gray, policy officer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and chief trainer for the government course, said he expected most councils would take a "softly, softly approach" at first.
"But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the compliance officers will not shy away from that," he added.
"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence although this may not be appropriate in many cases.
"There will be two ways of doing this, either staff can go in and identify themselves to the landlord, but they don't have to."
We are generally supportive of the smoking ban, and, judging by the way similar bans have been introduced in other countries, feel that it will be easy enough to enforce in pubs, clubs, offices etc.
However, we are totally opposed to the idea of undercover snooping and photography aimed at individual smokers and non-smokers alike.
We think that this sort of snooping on people, rather than inspections of licensed premises and places of work, is ultra vires.
In our view this constitutes Directed Surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which, if conducted by an authorised public body, must be cleared by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, in each individual investigation.
This is totally disproportionate to the Fixed Penalty Notice fine of £50 (discounted to £30 if you pay up promptly), which is to be used to enforce this ban.
You are not supposed to get a Criminal Record if you are served with a Fixed Penalty Notice However, the forthcoming, yet delayed, police intelligence systems like the Information Management, Prioritisation, Analysis, Co-ordination and Tasking (IMPACT) programme, together with various Government data sharing plans, could record such snooping details about Fixed penalty Notices in an "intelligence" database, rather than an "official criminal record" database. Similarly, such Fixed Penalty Notice data is likely to end up on the various Childrens Act 2004 "risk factor" databases on children and their parents.
There are, however, massive practical problems with the abuse of Fixed Penalty Notices in this way.