Anti-terror law paper boy probe

PUBLISHED: 11:05 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:56 11 May 2010

A COUNCIL has used anti-terrorism powers to take action against a newsagent who employed youngsters delivering papers without work permits. But the owners of the shop say they did nothing wrong, and that the incident was down to a mix-up with paperwork. C

A COUNCIL has used anti-terrorism powers to take action against a newsagent who employed youngsters delivering papers without work permits.

But the owners of the shop say they did nothing wrong, and that the incident was down to a mix-up with paperwork.

Cambridgeshire County Council carried out surveillance on Rashmi and Dips Solanki using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which was designed to combat serious crime, such as terrorism.

Mr and Mrs Solanki, who run the General Store, in High Street, Melbourn, were convicted of employing delivery boys without the correct permit at a hearing at Cambridge Magistrates Court last Friday.

They were both given six-month conditional discharges.

Mrs Solanki said: "I am really baffled by the way they have gone about this.

"It seems like such a total waste of time and money. It's ridiculous.

"The permits were submitted earlier this year, and afterwards I got a phone call from the council to say they hadn't received them all.

"I explained that I had sent them and that they must have got lost somewhere along the way, and they said they would look into it.

"I didn't hear anything else from them until I got the court summons.

"It could have all been sorted out with a simple phone call, without needing to involve the courts."

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said an officer stood outside the shop and monitored delivery youngsters going in and out.

He said: "In terms of using RIPA, it would not have been possible to gather admissible evidence and bring a conviction without its use.

"In this case the information was gathered by standing outside the shop.

"RIPA protects the right to privacy and ensures that the methods used are justified and appropriate.

"Our foremost priority is child protection and welfare. The county council has a statutory duty to regulate child employment.

"We took action in this case because we knew children were working illegally.

"We only take legal action when our attempts to help, by visiting, writing, etc, are persistently ignored, as happened in this case."

The spokesman added that employers needed to be aware that by employing children without permits, they "invalidate any liability insurance they may have.

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