The Mail are one of many to report that deputy Information Commissioner, David Smith, has come out against CCTV requirements for pub licensees.
David Smith, the deputy Information Commissioner, said: "Hardwiring surveillance into pubs raises serious privacy concerns. Installing surveillance in pubs to combat specific problems of rowdiness and bad behaviour may be lawful, but blanket measures where there is no history of criminal activity is likely to breach data protection requirements. Use of CCTV must be reasonable and proportionate if we are to maintain public trust and confidence in its deployment."
It was only Friday that I wrote about this myself. The focus was a Henry Porter article in The Guardian which hinted that there might be a policy by the police to hinder licence applications in Islington if the owner didn't commit to installing CCTV. The police insisted they didn't have such a policy and were at pains to point out that licensing was a local authority matter.
The MPS overall does not have a policy of insisting CCTV is installed within licensed premises before supporting licence applications. However, individual boroughs may impose blanket rules in support of their objectives to prevent crime and disorder and to assist the investigation of offences when they do occur.
So is this saying that Islington do, or don't, employ such rules? The Mail seem very certain.
The blanket policy has been introduced in the London boroughs of Islington and Richmond, where all applicants for permission to sell alcohol are being told they must fit CCTV.
Not personally being a sheep, especially when it comes to the Mail, I like to check these things out myself. It does seem, however, that they may have a point here. It's in the Islington licensing guidelines. [pdf]
CCTV shall be installed, operated and maintained in agreement with the Police. The system will enable frontal identification of every person entering the premises. The system shall record in real time and operate whilst the premises are open for licensable activities. The recordings shall be kept available for a minimum of 31 days. Recordings shall be made available to an Authorised Officer or a Police Officer (subject to the Data Protection Act 1998) within 24 hours of any request.
What's more, this is also mentioned.
When incorporated into the licence or certificate as conditions, they become enforceable under the law and a breach of such conditions could give rise to prosecution.
So, should the CCTV not be available, for any reason whatsoever, the owner would not only be vulnerable to losing his licence, but would also face the threat of prosecution.
To be completely fair to Islington, they do state that these conditions are to be 'volunteered', but the Islington pub owner who highlighted this was made very aware that his licence would be in jeopardy if he were to object.
I applied for a new licence, which requires the approval of a number of organisations, including the police. I was stunned to find the police were prepared to approve, ie not fight, our licence on condition that we installed CCTV capturing the head and shoulders of everyone coming into the pub, to be made available to them upon request.
I also spoke with a friend who is the licensing officer for another borough. Not only did he tell me that there was nothing I could do to overturn this, he also strongly advised me not to blot my copybook with the police by even questioning the request; I would not want them against me in the future.
It seems the guy is completely backed into a corner then. The police can protest their innocence as much as they like, but as long as they refuse to raise concerns, they are complicit.
Islington, of course, have implemented this without any semblance of democratic mandate, and we can't vote out the Metropolitan Police either. Unless I missed it, no party's General Election manifesto has ever carried this particular measure, nor has it been sanctioned by any legislation.
It is a regulation, made up on the fly, which can potentially destroy a business owner's life and potentially lead to a criminal record. Democracy in action? Don't think so.
Sounds like people acting "beyond their authority" to me. I seem to remember I have heard that before somewhere. Oh yes, it's from these smug bastards.
Is this what our country has descended to?