THE spied-upon mother at the centre of a growing media storm, after revealing she had been stalked by Poole council, has spoken of her ordeal.

Following the Daily Echo's exclusive story on Thursday, a media scrum descended on Jenny Paton, and her story has made newspaper headlines nationally and been featured on BBC, Sky and local TV news.

She and partner Tim Joyce and their three children were put under surveillance for almost three weeks by Poole council, using powers under an act intended to help catch terrorists and criminals.

Its justification was to check if they lived in the correct catchment area for their youngest daughter to attend Lilliput First School.

Jenny, 39, who runs a children's toys business, told of her abhorrence at their actions, and her shock at the council's declaration it will continue to spy on families like hers.

"THAT they will carry on spying is absolutely chilling."

That is the verdict of a mum-of-three who found her family at the sharp end of the council's powers to monitor residents.

Jenny Paton, her partner Tim Joyce and their three children were put under surveillance for almost three weeks by Poole council, using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

They were watched day and night by a council officer, noting their exact movements as part of an investigation to check they lived in the catchment area of Lilliput First School.

Jenny, 39, who runs a children's toys business,, was unaware she was being spied on until a schools admission meeting in March. She said: "When they dropped the surveillance bombshell I felt it was some kind of horrible joke, but they had records of our activities and movements.

"I was horrified. My children were named as targets for surveillance. They literally followed us.

"I haven't read it all - it made me very uncomfortable. They were tailing us, following us on school trips, coming back at 2pm to do the school pick up and following us at that time as well. They came back in the evening and parked outside both houses to see if there were any lights on and if the curtains were closed."

She added: "I do look out the window and see someone parked outside and think: Is that surveillance still going on? It's extremely creepy. It unsettles you.

"I feel we have been criminalised. I don't feel this is an appropriate piece of legislation to use. I certainly don't feel children should be targets for surveillance - that disturbs me. Other means could have been used other than terrorism legislation."

When the Daily Echo first began delving into RIPA powers, the council only admitted it had carried out procedures under the act three times for tracing telephone billing and subscription information.

Now Poole council has come out fighting, defending its use of surveillance as "appropriate and reasonable action" for the benefit of town residents.

"I think the fact that they will carry on spying is absolutely chilling," said Jenny. "They are only coming out with that attitude now because they have been caught out. They could have and should have been up front about it a few days ago."

She added: "It's a heavy handed, blunt response to the fact they have been stalking people. It does smack of Big Brother, and the fact that they are going to be doing more should ring alarm bells with everybody. It won't just be this council - other councils will be using RIPA disproportionately in this way."

The family has had a home on Sandbanks Road, within the Lilliput First School catchment area, for a decade. They also have a home in Branksome, which they are renovating.

They put their Lower Parkstone home on the market, but made sure they lived there until the end of the admissions period, to ensure their youngest daughter could follow her siblings into their school of choice.

Jenny admits to "playing the system" to their advantage, but said she did no more than any other parent would have given the circumstances.

"Catchment is a very emotive issue," she said. "We all do the best for our children, if it's going to church on Sunday to get a letter from the vicar, or buying a house in the catchment area, or renting a place for six months in the catchment period.

"To some it may seem a little underhand, a little unfair, but it is perfectly within the rules and regulations of the system as it stands at the moment."

The mum-of-three said she was prepared to face the music at the school gates over her actions, in order to highlight those of the council.

"This is a serious piece of legislation being used for schools admissions and not much else," she added. "It was my intention to ensure as many people as possible knew about RIPA's disproportionate use."

Jenny's partner Tim Joyce, 37, also spoke out to condemn the surveillance. He said: "Intrusive powers like that make people frightened to speak out - you lose a key democratic element of our society. That is not a world I want to live in."