'Big Brother' criticism of operation

By Richard Wright

Monday, December 3, 2012


AN OPERATION to tackle benefit fraud has been criticised for "Big Brother" intrusion.

The Isle of Wight Labour Party has voiced concern following last week’s police-led Operation Evening Light "ring of steel" operation, which targeted bad-driving.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Isle of Wight Council benefit fraud investigators questioned some of those stopped about benefit issues.

Last week the Isle of Wight Council apologised if people felt inconvenienced or objected to the approach, but highlighted the huge drain on the public purse caused by benefit fraud. Police said most people who were stopped were supportive and appreciated the need for the operation.

Today (Monday) however, the Isle of Wight Labour Party said 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."

Isle of Wight Labour Party chairman 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 Isle of Wight Council disgraceful.

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

Twenty-five benefit fraud investigations were sparked by the operation and dozens of motoring offences resulted from 240 drivers being stopped.

Isle of Wight Council director for resources Dave Burbage said: "The council treats benefit fraud seriously as it is a type of theft that takes money away from people who are in most need of support and impacts on the local tax payer."

The joint crackdown was led by Ch Insp Nick Heelan. He said: "This sort of operation is done elsewhere in the country all the time with partner agencies working together.

"The main focus was preventing the toll of death and serious injury on Island roads."

Reporter: richardw@iwcpmail.co.uk


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Displaying the last 10 of 24 comments - Show All Comments

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by nigel foster

6th December 2012, at 03:40:07

the Police powers to demand information are I understand defined by the Police Reform Act 2002 and except when a vehicle is involved are limited to demanding name and address and not NI number or any other information. If a vehicle is involved they can demand date of birth. Unless and until there is prima facia evidence of wrongdoing, benefits are not a police matter is that not correct Mr Heelan?

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by Steven Taylor

4th December 2012, at 17:07:56

I think it is a fantastic idea.I do also think their should be in supermarket car parks as I see far,far to many 'DISABLED' blue badge olders in disabled spaces who simply get out of their car faster then I do and carry bags of shopping back to their car when their are suppose to be disabled.Some people walk faster then I do and why is it I work full time and drive a 1998 ford ,people with a blue badge seem to have £8,000-£15,000 cars. Who said work pays??? I know not all blue badge olders are like this and some really do need them but some people really are taking the mick.

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by david wright

4th December 2012, at 11:19:50

I never understand people hiding behind 'civil liberties'. It just gives criminals a place to hide! I would be irritated by the inconvenience of being stopped but have no problem answering any questions asked. Why as was stated would you go to prison rather than carry an id card? Do you have a driving licence or passport? Do they offend you?They are useful documents to prove who you are, nothing else. Honest people have nothing to fear.

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by Peter Lewis

4th December 2012, at 10:28:58

These sorts of discussions always seem to polorise opinion.

For me there is a definate link between those who use their phones and do not wear seatbelts and those that cause accidents. If they don't care about their own safety then the probably don't care about yours either.

As for the DWP carrying out checks , we complain that the "scroungers" take our money and why don't "they" do something about it, then complain when "they" do. People have the option to refuse to answer the questions if they want. However a policeman in his duties is empowered to ask certain questions so why not combine the two operations? Got to be more cost effective surely. Personally I do not drive around with an identity theft pack with me so I would not have been able to produce any documents for the DWP.

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by Michael Long

4th December 2012, at 10:21:52

Perhaps the next investigation could look into the tax-avoiding contracts of employment for 'retired' senior council staff.

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by Colin Russell

4th December 2012, at 09:44:23

We all watch the tv programs Motorway cops, Traffic cops police cars fitted with gizmos that tell if a car has a MOT if its insured who the owner is etc, etc, and we watch where councils and dwp cross ref with each other make there investigations THEN call in the police to make the arrest, it all seems to work ok on the mianland, then it seems to falls apart on the Island ,Im out and about round the island and i can count on one hand the amount of police cars i see in a week that speaks reams. for me. And sadly after all this there are still bad accidents happening.

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by Don Prescott

4th December 2012, at 09:26:10

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by Don Prescott

4th December 2012, at 09:24:52

"The main focus was preventing the toll of death and serious injury on Island roads"

At 02.30 on 3rd Dec., two BMWs were racing each other at speeds of up to 140 mph on the M1.

One driver unsurprisingly, lost control and caused a crash in which two people died.

IF, as a result of that stupidity, the police found that amongst the remaining people alive, who, incidentally, were FIGHTING each other at the scene of the crash, there were those who were benefit fraudsters/drug dealers/illegal immigrants/wanted criminals, then tough luck.

"This sort of operation is done elsewhere in the country all the time with partner agencies working together" means that if you have committed one crime, like KILLING another road user, the police CAN interview you further. Geddit?

Additionally, I understood that Mr. Marriott insisted that people comment on here using their REAL name and not some flippant pseudonym to conceal their identity.

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by Deborah Alexander

4th December 2012, at 08:05:48

Police checking cars is a good thing but as for the other agencies involved, it beggars belief that it can be legal randomly ask people to produce documents and answer questions. The correct procedure would surely be to call claimants into the benefit centre for an interview. I hope there is a legal bod out there who takes these people to court. Don't allow the fear of a few people swindling the state to erode our civil liberties. Target the benefit fraudsters at the benefit centre not on the kerbside.

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by Terry Dalley

4th December 2012, at 06:49:30

I think you have missed the point ,many benefit fraudsters are driving cars that are paid for by benefits .and if it is so they are not law abiding people like the labour party would have us believe .If you are doing nothing wrong the police will not enter your home with cameras as has been stupidly suggested.This is typical we want benefit cheats caught but do not want the police to do anything about it .Make your mind up please.

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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