A case of Can't Cope TV - Police do not have time to analyse video of burglary

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Public CCTV surveillance has been shown not to be particularly effective in preventing violent, or drunken street crime or terrorism. Studies have generally accepted that there can be a reduction or displacement of crimes against property, which is why many local shopkeepers tend to support such schemes.


Richmond Informer Friday March 17th 2006

A case of Can't Cope TV

Cops Say they havn't got time to analyse video of burgalry

By Natalie Arsalane

A Teddington shopkeeper who was burgled has criticised the police after they refused to check CCTV footage - because they did not have enough man-power

Nigel Dawes' shop - Teddington Station Garden Centre - was burgled on February 26.

Thieves stole £400 worth of plants from the store, in Station Road, despite a council-run CCTV camera being yards from the shop.

When Mr Dawes contacted the police, he was told that because he did not know the specific time the theft took place, they could not check the film.

He then asked if he could check the tape himself, but Richmond Council would not allow him.

What is the point of such a public CCTV surveillance system if does not deter criminals and if nobody checks the footage ?

Mr Dawes said he was shocked by the reaction he received from officers and Richmond Council.

"The burglary must have happened on Sunday evening, so it would not take that long to look at eight hours of footage and see if anyone is on the camera," he said.

"The culprits were not taking small items - we're talking about £400 worth of plants - so I'm sure the film must show something.

"I was more than willing to look at the footage myself as they didn't have time but they told me that was not possible. It's a disgrace."

A spokeswoman for Richmond Police said it would take a long time to go through 15 hours of tape.

Have they really not yet worked out how to use the fast forward facility on a video player ?

"Police policy for Richmond borough is being reviewed regarding appropriate use of police resources to view CCTV footage, of a length over 30 minute," she said

Is this Metropolitan Police policy really being reviewed at the moment, or is it always "under review", especially when a local newspaper reporter is asking awkward questions ?

"If it can be positively stated that the subject is on tape and a reasonable time scale given, then the footage will be seized and viewed,

Note the Police jargon here - "the footage will be seized"

This is a Local Government taxpayer funded, CCTV street camera system, not an illicit pornographic video studio - why is it "seized" rather than "routinely requested" ?

What happened to "policing by consent of the local community" ?

"It is not operationally possible to view all CCTV footage, therefore, viewing importance is weighed against the realistic chance of obtaining images of the suspect."

A spokesman for Richmond Police said: "Residents have no rights to look at data we have recorded of a crime being committed.
"There are various reasons for this, including the Data Protection Act, Human Rights Act and Criminal Evidence Act."

So why should we waste more money on such CCTV surveillance systems ? We obviously already have far more than we can cope with.

Why should there continue to be a "post code"lottery" patchwork of different and unequal CCTV surveillance practices. within London and the rest of the United Kingdom ?


Richmond Council appear to have an incredibly bureaucratic and very intrusive "Subject access request form" (.pdf) for CCTV images, which asks for all sorts of irrelevant personal data

Title (tick box as appropriate) Mr Mrs Miss Ms
Other title (e.g. Dr., Rev., etc.)
Surname/family name
First names
Maiden name/former names
Sex (tick box) Male Female
Date of Birth
Place of Birth Town County

Your Current Home Address (to which we will reply)
Post Code
A telephone number will be helpful in case you need to be contacted.
Tel. No.
If you have lived at the above address for less than 10 years, please give your previous addresses for the period:
Previous address(es)
Dates of occupancy From: To:
Dates of occupancy From: To:

What is the justification for previous names and addresses or your sex. height or place and date of birth ??

There is also the risk of them losing not one but two of your "official" identity documents.

To help establish your identity your application must be accompanied by TWO official documents that between them clearly show your name, date of birth and current address.

For example: a birth/adoption certificate, driving licence, medical card, passport or other official document that shows your name and address.

Also a recent, full face photograph of yourself.

Failure to provide this proof of identity may delay your application.

The requirement for a recent, full face photograph means that even a Passport or the proposed National Identity Card will not be sufficient, since that photo could be up to 10 years old.

This "proof of identity" is not far short of the ID Card or Passport application and enrolment process, and, in itelf, contravenes the Third Principle of Data Protection:

3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.

on a form which quotes the Data Protection Act 1998 !

N.B. This is not the same as filling in their "Access to CCTV image request form" (.pdf)

In this case, they will probably wait the statutory 41 days, to reply, ask the shopkeeper for the maximum £10 fee, and then, some indeterminate time there after, tell him that they have already deleted it after 30 days since February 26th.

This fact that the CCTV tape could already have been erased or overwritten, will also stymie any Police investigation request under Section 29 of the DPA.

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TrackBack URL for this entry: https://spyblog.org.uk/mt5211/mt-tb.cgi/732

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They would soon mannage to read the CCTV footage if it had a number plate on it.

If the shopkeeper puts in an FOI request, the police would be obliged to spend up to £450 in staff time (i.e. up to 18 hours) in finding the relevant information.

@ FOI Officer - they would then, presumably refuse to hand over the CCTV tape to him under the vast range of Exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act e.g.

  • Section 23: Information Supplied by, or Related to, Bodies Dealing with Security Matters

  • Section 24: National Security
  • Section 30: Investigations And Proceedings Conducted By Public Authorities
  • Section 31: Law Enforcement
  • Section 40: Personal Information

They'd read the CCTV footage if t had a number plate on it - absoultely they would! Remember when spy cameras first started to appear? Councils up and down the land were quick to state that these cameras were to tackle serious street crime. They were not there to nab someone throwing down a fag end or parking on double yellow lines. Read the document from Richmond (link in main post) and you'll see that one of their prime purposes is traffic enforcement, for which read parking offences. I guess because the cameras are so useless at dealing with real crime the councils have to justify them somehow. Using them to rake in parking fines now seems to be the big idea.

Just been looking at the Subject Access Request from Richmond. It's so far over the top that it's out of sight! This must be someone taking the p..., surely.

Is it worth reporting them to the DPC for this outrageous infringement of data protection principles?

I know the DPC is generally a waste of space and is probably a laughing stock in local government, national government and police circles, but maybe they might just take up this case.

The National Security exemption would not apply, as no national security issues would arise. The personal data exemption would only apply if another person was clearly identifiable on the footage, and to disclose their personal information would be a breach of the principles. It would be easy to make a case for how it would not breach the principles to disclose the identity of the offender. All of the other exemptions are subject to a test of the public interest. The police will continue to use such exemptions unless they are challenged. No matter how cumbersome the appeals process is, it should be used and tested.

@ FOI officer - there may be nothing on the CCTV tape at all - the camera could have been pointing the other way at the relevant time of the burglary.

"The National Security exemption would not apply, as no national security issues would arise."

It depends on what is, and what is not, within the potential field of view of the CCTV camera.

The point is, the police cannot reject requests for CCTV footage in the terms described (i.e. we're too busy). The FOI Act prevents this. And I maintain that any police force that tries the National Security exemption for CCTV footage in this situation is going to be on very unsafe ground. If they were to say it, they should be challenged. Decisions made under FOI are not final - they can be overturned by the Commissioner (unlikely), by the Tribunal (likely) or even the courts (who knows?). The thing to do in this circumstance is to make an FOI request and force them to respond properly.

@ FOI Officer - If you send in a request for an arbitarary bit of CCTV footage, under the Freedom of Information Act, about an incident which you yourself are not directly involved in, could it not also be rejected out of hand as a "vexatious request" under Section 14 of the FOIA ?

We are still waiting, after nearly a whole year for Decision from the Information Commissioner about a Freedom of Information Act request, so you must forgive our utter scepticism about how effective such an approach might be.

According to The Register, the Information Commissioner's Office is due to to issue new guidance on CCTV sometime this summer.

Any police force who rejected a request as vexatious solely because the applicant was not involved in the footage would be wildly off the mark. In my opinion as a professional FOI Officer, it would be impossible for them to say so, and eventually, the Commissioner would agree.

@ FOI Officer - the Information Commissioner was urging public authorities to make more use of Section 14 "vexatious requests" as an alternative to the idea of increasing the fees charged for FOIA requests.

See the uncorrected Oral Evidence to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee on 14th March 2006

Unlike a £10 Data Protection Act Subject Data Access request, the police or the local authority or the Community Safety Camera Partnership or whoever is legally operating the CCTV cameras, would be entiled to charge a much higher fee for supplying CCTV under an FOIA request.

Remember that under the DPA, you are not allowed to see details of people's faces other than your own, and so there is usually £500 worth of Avid video editing to be done, pixellating out everyone else's face.

If an FOIA request for CCTV footage is not refused for being "vexatious" or for containing "personal details", then it may well be only available on payment of a fee which covers this video editing censorship.

It might be interesting to try to ask for, say, the CCTV footage from Stockwell Tube station when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot - what do you tthink the chances are of it being released under an FOIA request ?

A request for the De Menezes footage would be relatively easy to reject - they could refuse using Section 30 (ongoing investigations). In general, public authorities have to spend up to £450 of staff time (£600 for central government) in finding and collating information. The police would have to spend up to £450 of staff time (roughly translated to 18 hours) in finding and editing the information without making a charge. Therefore, a large fee should not necessarily be payable. Besides, under the IC's own guidance, it might not be necessary to pixellate the images of other people because the Commissioner's own view of what constitutes personal data in CCTV footage is much more limited than it used to be.

The Commissioner's evidence to the Select Committee is something of a red herring. Central Government are thinking of altering the fees structure for FOI because of the supposed burden of dealing with voluminous requests. One often quoted example was the request for the number of windows at the HQ of the Department for Education and Skills. The IC was simply pointing out that you don't need better charges to deal with that kind of request, just a reasonable use of Section 14. I repeat, asking for evidence relating to a crime is not in itself vexatious, it's a perfectly sensible request which I don't believe could be rejected as vexatious.

@ FOI Officer - FOIA requests to the Metropolitan Police Service have their own Kafkauesque quality.

If, like we did, you send in an FOIA request to the central Metropolitan Police Service, even for something which should be easy to find and disclose, e.g. how many people were arrested for are particular offence during a particular time period, then you run into the fact that the MPS is really made up of 34 Borough Command Units, so if a query goes out to each BCU, and it takes more than half an hour each, even for them to say "no information on this in our patch", you are approaching the £450 / 18 man hour limit for an FOIA request.

We were told that even breaking the request down into separate Boroughs, and shorter time periods, would likely result in it being treated as a "camapaign" and therefore "vexatious".

This is sort of thing is likely to be repeated around the country when various Police forces are merged into larger units, under the controversial Police and Justice Bill now being rubber stamped through Parliament.

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Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia


Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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For those of you who find it convenient, there is now a Twitter feed to alert you to new Spy Blog postings.


Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests.

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Recent Comments

  • wtwu: @ FOI Officer - FOIA requests to the Metropolitan Police read more
  • FOI Officer: A request for the De Menezes footage would be relatively read more
  • wtwu: @ FOI Officer - the Information Commissioner was urging public read more
  • FOI Officer: Any police force who rejected a request as vexatious solely read more
  • wtwu: @ FOI Officer - If you send in a request read more
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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme


WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers