BIG Brother will continue watching you - that's the pledge from Poole council, which is strongly defending its "direct surveillance" tactics.

The Daily Echo revealed on Thursday how a Poole family was subject to more than two weeks of being spied on at home, to ascertain if their three-year-old daughter lived within a school catchment area.

"Yes, we will carry on when we feel the need," said John Nash, director of children's services, who revealed three families had been subject to surveillance for the 2007 and 2008 school years.

"We believe we act responsibly, in the best interests of the people who live in Poole, in using these powers.

"They are used very infrequently.

"We do not believe we are MI5 or Rebus or James Bond or anyone else. We try to do it responsibly and we believe we have taken appropriate and reasonable action, given the information that was given to us," he said.

All three cases investigated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) related to the same popular school and followed suspicions passed on to the school or local authority, often from other parents.

Mr Nash said they first checked the electoral role and asked a family for proof of residence, such as a utility bill, before sending out a trained council officer morning and evening to check.

"We do this as a last resort," he said. Parents were then invited to a meeting and the evidence presented to them.

Of the three cases, two offers of school places were withdrawn. In the case highlighted by the Daily Echo, the daughter was accepted by the school.

"We only do this to be fair to all of the parents who apply for places in schools, to ensure that the system is being used properly," said Mr Nash.

"We don't hire private detectives, we do not look into peoples' dustbins and we don't break into emails," he said.

The council's tactics have been dubbed "disproportionate and unnecessarily intrusive" by human rights group Liberty.