Jessica Shepherd
London Guardian
August 2, 2010

A family won a landmark ruling today when a council was found to have acted illegally in spying on them for nearly three weeks to discover whether they had lied about living in the catchment area of a top primary school.

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A tribunal ruled that Poole council had breached the law by using powers designed to catch serious criminals to track every movement of the Paton family.

The council had kept Jenny Paton, her partner Tim Joyce and their three daughters under covert surveillance between February 13 and March 3 2008 after receiving two phone calls claiming the family did not live at the address they had given on the school application form. If they had not lived at the property, their children would not have been eligible for a place at the local primary – Lilliput first school in Dorset. The school has been rated outstanding by inspectors and is over-subscribed.

The council had watched the family at home, recorded their movements in detail and used “physical surveillance” on six occasions to establish whether they were lying. The council’s notes describe the couple’s car as a “target vehicle”.

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