Feeds

Police law-interpretation: What next?

Peering at pub punters isn't proper, and that's not all

High performance access to file storage

The Information Commissioner has given the Metropolitan Police a good ticking-off for attempting to bring about the blanket introduction of CCTV in pubs. Their stance on the issue "raised serious privacy issues", which is data protection speak for "could possibly be unlawful".

In response, the Met’s initial reaction – a declaration that their policy will carry on regardless - appeared to be a shining example of how to react when authority tells us we may be acting illegally. To be fair, that is what their spokesperson was quoted as saying yesterday: this morning, The Reg spoke with the Met, who insisted that their spokeswoman may have been misinterpreted – and that there was no longer a blanket policy. Police will in future consider all licensing requests on their individual merits.

However, this is but one of a number of recent instances where the Police – and particularly the Met – have developed "policy" in respect of maintaining law and order that looks suspiciously like creating new law, and it is giving lawyers and politicians cause for concern.

Evidence of the blanket ban emerged when Nick Gibson took over the Draper's Arms in Barnsbury Street, Islington from its previous owners, and then sought to relicense it. Although the pub had no previous record of trouble, and CCTV had not been a condition of licensing, the Met nonetheless asked licensing authorities to make it a condition now.

Further inquiries revealed that in certain parts of London, the Met has a blanket policy of requiring that licensed premises install CCTV, in direct contravention of guidelines (pdf) from the Information Commissioner on the subject. The Office of the Information Commissioner suggests that installation of CCTV is a major step, and in each case, should be considered on its individual merits.

The ICO has also expressed concerns that the Policing Bill, now before parliament, may make it easier for the police and local authorities to impose blanket requirements in future.

Yesterday, lawyers, MPs and activists met in Portcullis House, Westminster, to hear about a report into alleged systemic misconduct during the policing of the Kingsnorth Climate Camp in August 2008. The report alleges that police used S1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 as a blanket search power to stop people and disrupt the otherwise lawful activity of the protesters attempting to attend the camp.

According to the report’s author, solicitor Frances Wright, this is not what the letter of the law says, which is that there must be a reason to suspect the individual concerned, and that stereotyping all individuals who attend a particular event is unlawful.

Comedian and political activist Mark Thomas recently took a complaint over a similar incident – in which two policemen stopped him on the grounds that he "looked over-confident" - to the Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). That case, too, revolved around interpretation of PACE – and the IPCC agreed that the police had over-stepped their powers.

Similar issues may arise when the police decide to set up on-street scanning facilities in order to check passers-by for the possibility that they might be carrying knives. Police have been reported as arguing that although they have no powers to compel an individual to be scanned, a refusal to accede to a police request in this respect may itself be suspicious, thereby allowing the stop and search to go ahead anyway.

However, more recent checks in this regard have tended to rely on S60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which allows an officer of the rank of inspector or above to authorise blanket searches where he "reasonably believes that incidents involving serious violence are imminent".

The problem with incidents of this kind, according to Norman Baker MP, who addressed the meeting on the Climate Camp protest yesterday is that they look suspiciously like police-made law and go hand in hand with the politicisation of the police. He said: "The IPCC exist to investigate allegations of individual misconduct by Police Officers. They are not there to investigate systemic abuses of power, which is what seem to be going on in cases such as the Climate Camp.

"I am a strong supporter of the Police. But there looks increasingly to be a need for additional oversight into the ways in which they interpret the law." ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.