Your home is no longer your castle'
PUBLISHED: 15:56 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 17:28 25 August 2010
A PRESSURE group has warned that the privacy of homeowners could be at risk as they revealed that thousands of council officers have the power to enter private property without a warrant. A report by Big Brother Watch, entitled Barging In, has revealed t
A PRESSURE group has warned that the privacy of homeowners could be at risk as they revealed that thousands of council officers have the power to enter private property without a warrant.
A report by Big Brother Watch, entitled Barging In, has revealed that at least 14,793 officers nationwide have powers to enter private property without a warrant or police escort.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that Greenwich council has 52 officers who have the power to enter property without warrants or police escort.
But a quarter of the country's local authorities, including Bexley council, failed to answer the FOI claiming that the request would take longer than the statutory 18 hours to complete.
State inspectors were handed the power on June 15 to help local authorities crack down on anti-social behaviour or carry out environmental health surveys.
But Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: "Once, a man's home was his castle. Today the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes.
"Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers within their council for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public's right to privacy and the potential for abuse."
A spokesperson for Bexley council said: "Some Bexley officers have various powers of entry. However, these can only be exercised in strict accordance with conditions set out in the relevant acts and regulations.
"Examples of situations where the power of entry could be used include the need to enter a vacant premises to silence an intruder alarm that is causing a nuisance to neighbours or entering property to investigate or clear a blocked sewer that may cause sewage to flood.
"The reason for refusing the Freedom of Information request is the cost of collating the required information. The information is kept across a number of departments. To gather the information would take considerable officer time.
"We cannot comment on how other councils maintain or collate this information or how they were able to provide it without charging."
A spokesperson for Greenwich council said: "Parliament has given local authorities the right to effect entry into premises to deal with circumstances which could affect the health and well being of our citizens and in some cases the safety of children at risk of abuse and injury.
"These powers are used very sparingly and in a very judicious manner but are essential in extreme circumstances to protect the health, well being and safety of residents."