Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum Submitted by Steve Jolly (PF 20)

‘Birmingham Spy Cameras No Thanks!’


1 The CCTV provisions in the Protection of Freedoms Bill are disappointing. Much of what is contained in the Bill or the Code of Practice consultation can be found in previous Home Office guidance or the 2007 National CCTV Strategy. A proper debate is urgently needed that explores all aspects of surveillance cameras and cuts through the cries of parliamentarians that "it's what the public wants!" The issues associated with Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras (ANPR) and their ability to track citizens are not addressed in any meaningful way. Public consultation on surveillance cameras requires an informed debate and it is therefore a great shame that the Liberal Democrat's proposal for a Royal Commission "to recommend on the use and regulation of CCTV" failed to make it into the Bill.


2 Having given much consideration to the relevant sections of the proposed Bill and the Code of Practice consultation document I feel it is important to put my views before the committee regarding this important matter.

3 Whilst in opposition the Liberal Democrat party produced a Freedom Bill [1] which appears to be the forerunner to the current Protection of Freedoms Bill. Chapter 4 of the Freedom Bill called for the establishment of a Royal Commission "to recommend on the use and regulation of CCTV". Such a Royal Commission is urgently needed to address what the Surveillance Studies Network recently referred to as "a remarkable anomaly" [2] - the public and political support for surveillance cameras despite their ineffectiveness in achieving their stated objectives.

4 A full public debate to address both the failures and negative impacts on society of surveillance cameras is desperately needed. Both the 2007-8 Home Affairs Committee's 'A Surveillance Society?' inquiry and the 2008-9 Constitution Committee's 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' inquiry failed to get beyond the hackneyed cry of parliamentarians that "it's what the public wants!" Both of these inquiries took evidence before the Campbell Collaboration's 'Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime' [3] evaluation was published in December 2008. The Campbell Collaboration's evaluation concluded that: "CCTV schemes in city and town centres and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime" (page 19).

5 Once in government the calls for a Royal Commission into surveillance cameras were replaced by rhetoric albeit strong. On 19th May 2010, the Deputy Prime Minister in a speech on constitutional reform [4] acknowledged that:

"It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop."

6 Accordingly, he promised:

"to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state.


A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge."

7 In relation to the rapid and unchecked proliferation of public surveillance what freedoms did Mr Clegg promise to protect? None. Only that:

"CCTV will be properly regulated."

8 Now we are asked to accept that concerns about surveillance cameras can be brushed aside without a full debate and that somehow proper regulation is the answer.

9 The Bill contains no definition of "freedoms" and what exactly the Bill is supposed to be protecting, this despite the extremely detailed definitions that the Bill contains. It also seems strange that this Bill has begun its passage through parliament before the independent Commission to investigate the case for a UK Bill of Rights [5] .

National CCTV Strategy

10 The measures introduced in this Home Office Bill come as no surprise to those following the continued expansion of camera surveillance in the UK, but they do come as a disappointment to those that believed the new government might start to restore some of the freedoms lost by the citizens of the UK. The provisions relating to CCTV in the Protection of Freedoms Bill appear to be a direct continuation of the Home Office/ACPO National CCTV Strategy [6] published in October 2007. The National CCTV Strategy contained a number of recommendations that were allocated to 5 subgroups, namely 'Standards', 'Establishment of the National CCTV Body and Registration Scheme', 'Police Use of CCTV', 'Facilities in the CJS' and 'Partnerships and Resources'.

11 Whilst the new government may seek to take credit for the idea of looking again at CCTV regulation we find that recommendation 12 of the 2007 National CCTV Strategy states: "Develop legislation to ensure the appropriate regulation of CCTV systems".

12 Much of the National CCTV Strategy is concerned with the establishment of standards, recommendation 2 states: "Agree on digital CCTV standards and digital video formats for public space CCTV, police, and CJS use" and recommendation 3 states: "Seek to influence national and international CCTV standards".

13 Compare these recommendations with the Standards section of the recently published Home Office ''Consultation on a Code of Practice relating to surveillance cameras' [7] which states on page 14: "The Government has no intention of requiring that all users must upgrade their systems, but the adoption of industry standards would not only provide assurance for customers that their systems would operate as claimed;" and later also on page 14: "The Government would therefore wish to engage with manufacturers businesses and users on the merits and feasibility of developing a range of technical standards for equipment, at national or international level".

14 Page 15 of the Code of Practice consultation states: "One area in which it may be particularly helpful for the new Code to provide further or refined guidance is in relation to recommended data retention periods", whilst recommendations 18, 27 and 28 of the National CCTV Strategy also refer to retention periods, recommendation 18 stating: "Image retention periods should be standardised and relate to the operational purpose of the CCTV system".

15 It becomes clear when comparing the Home Office's draft CCTV Code of Practice to the National CCTV recommendations that the surveillance camera provisions have no place in a Bill entitled 'Protection of Freedoms'. They would be better placed in a policing or crime bill where they could be seen for what they are – part of the continued expansion of the surveillance state.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition Cameras

16 The ANPR network of over 10,500 ANPR cameras [8] and the database attached to it has been developed without any primary legislation, statutory instruments and with no public or parliamentary debate. Its original stated intention was to identify untaxed/uninsured vehicles, but ACPO's 'ANPR Strategy for the Police Service 2007/2010' [9] declared their intention for ANPR to become "a core policing tool" by March 2010.

17 When ACPO were asked for details of the statutory powers / Act(s) of Parliament under which ANPR cameras are installed and used as a "core policing tool" they simply stated that ANPR "does not require any legislation or statutory powers" to effectively conduct nationwide vehicle surveillance [10] .

18 Yet in the 2004 report 'Driving crime down' [11] the then Home Secretary David Blunkett wrote that experience gained in an ANPR pilot "is likely to lead to the introduction of ANPR enabling legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows". Furthermore the Surveillance Commissioner's 2005-2006 Annual Report [12] stated:

"In the normal case, where a camera is sited in an obvious position and obviously is a camera, the deployment will not be covert. The same will normally apply where adequate notice of the presence of a camera has been given. But ANPR is not a normal case, and it is arguable that, even if the presence of an ANPR camera is apparent, surveillance nevertheless remains covert if occupants of vehicles are unaware that the camera may make and record identifiable images of them. Explaining the true purpose of the equipment briefly is not easy. It is not possible to lay down rules as to what will amount to adequate notice of the presence of the camera and of its function."

19 The Surveillance Commissioner's report went on to say:

"The unanimous view of the Commissioners is that the existing legislation is not apt to deal with the fundamental problems to which the deployment of ANPR cameras gives rise. This is probably because the current technology, or at least its very extensive use, had not been envisaged when the legislation was framed. The Commissioners are of the view that legislation is likely to be required to establish a satisfactory framework to allow for the latest technological advances. The position is complicated by the fact that the current technology can be used in a variety of different ways and at different levels of effectiveness. I am accordingly urging upon the Home Secretary the desirability of promoting such enabling legislation as may be needed."

20 Section 29(6) of the Bill inserts ANPR cameras along with CCTV into the definition of surveillance cameras - as if this powerful nationwide surveillance network has always been an accepted part of our national infrastructure. Can this really be seen as a measure that addresses the many concerns about ANPR and the lack of proper debate in its expansion throughout the UK?

21 The national ANPR network is the biggest surveillance network that the public has never heard of. ACPO has also rejected transparency regarding the location and positioning of these cameras.

22 The government has failed to address the concerns about ANPR cameras – concerns raised by the Surveillance Commissioner, and the wider public including those that fought the Project Champion cameras in Birmingham.

Comparisons with previous CCTV guidance

23 In 1994 the Home Office produced a document entitled 'CCTV Closed Circuit Television: Looking out for you'. At first glance it appears that Home Office thinking has progressed very little in the last 17 years. Page 35 of 'Looking out for you' states:

"In order that CCTV systems are used efficiently, that public confidence is maintained, due attention is paid to issues of privacy and that integrity of systems is preserved, it is crucial that a code of practice is developed."

24 However further study of 'Looking out for you' reveals that, despite Home Office evaluations that have reported the failings of CCTV, the current proposals lag far behind the 1994 document when it comes to understanding surveillance cameras and their impact on society. In the recent 'Consultation on a Code of Practice relating to surveillance cameras' the Home Office present the stated objectives of surveillance cameras under the guise of 'Benefits' (pages 6 & 9) and weigh these in the balance alongside what they deem the 'Challenges' (pages 8 & 10) which are little more than questions over image format and such like. Compare this with page 15 of 'Looking out for you', which under the heading 'Will CCTV create any problems?' lists a number of potential pitfalls:

- "Be aware of the need to avoid the risk of CCTV simply moving crime to another part of your area. …"

- "Take care that the installation of CCTV will not reduce the vigilance of otherwise active citizens. …"

- "Be careful that the installation of CCTV will not produce an exaggerated sense of security amongst vulnerable members of the community. …"

25 None of these pitfalls are explored in the current Bill or accompanying Code of Practice consultation. Whilst the technology has progressed enormously in the last 17 years and as the Code of Practice consultation acknowledges "that modern digital technology is on the cusp of revolutionising the use of CCTV" (page 8), the Home Office's concern for our society has taken a back seat in favour of pushing ahead with the National CCTV Strategy agenda of even more state surveillance.

26 Consultation with the public

27 Section 29 (3) of the Bill states that the proposed CCTV code may include provision about: "procedures for complaints or consultation". Page 13 of the Code of Practice consultation expands upon this clause of the Bill – under the heading 'Pre-Planning' it suggests possible check list contents, including:

"appropriate consultation with the public, or any specific group, most directly affected by any planned surveillance;"

28 The 1994 document 'Looking out for you' also called for public consultation - on page 17-18 under the heading 'Planning' the Department of the Environment circular 5/94 is quoted:

"Prior to the development of a CCTV scheme, there should be consultations with the police, community groups, business people and (if the installation is by a private developer) the local authority."

29 'Looking out for you' also suggests on page 15 that many crime prevention measures can be made more effective by publicising the measure:

"Many crime prevention measures are remarkably effective for the first year or so, as offenders become less confident in the changed circumstances. The influence of these measures then fades as their familiarity increases. Think through what you might need to do to sustain the impact of CCTV. Publicity is now believed to be crucial to maintain the effectiveness of many crime prevention measures."

30 This concept of publicising CCTV as an effective tool in order to in some way actually make it an effective tool has become the standard practise to the point where the general public believes surveillance cameras are far more effective than the objective reality. This means that simply offering a token consultation is not enough. Only an informed debate can suffice. The constant cries of MPs that their constituents want more CCTV not less means that no meaningful debate ever takes place. Most MPs seem to see surveillance cameras as an easy win to gain support. This only fuels the support of CCTV that is so often proclaimed, but when the public is asked whether they support CCTV why are they never asked whether they would still support it if it did not do what was claimed? With surveillance technology advancing fast it is surely the duty of parliamentarians to get informed and in turn to inform the public of the facts and dangers of camera surveillance.

31 In a June 2009 House of Lords debate on the Constitution Committee's report 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' Lord Peston pointed out that:

"if the public want these CCTV cameras - and my ad hoc experience is that that is true - what is the correct response that those of us in public life, not least the Government, should give? Should we say, "If it is what they want, then it is what they ought to have even though it is not backed by any evidence at all"? Or is it our duty to educate them and tell them that they are wrong? [...] I certainly believe that if all CCTV cameras do is reassure you when you should not regard them as doing so, then someone ought to say to you, "Why don't you think about it a little bit and realise that you are mistaken?"." [13]

32 Anna Soubry MP, in a debate on 'Crime and Policing' in September 2010 in response to comments made by Hazel Blears MP, said:

"The right hon. Lady will know that I said that I want fewer CCTV cameras. That should be the aim of everybody in this Chamber, because people should be able to walk the streets free from the fear of crime and from actual crime." [14]

33 Unfortunately Lord Peston and Anna Soubry MP are rare exceptions.

34 A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology entitled 'CCTV Surveillance and the Civic Conversation: A Study in Public Sociology' [15] looked at public opinion with regard to surveillance cameras in Canada. This study was initiated in part as a result of the publication by The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) of 'OPC Guidelines for the Use of Video Surveillance of Public Places by Police and Law Enforcement Authorities' [16] which states that "Public consultation should precede any decision to introduce video surveillance." The study’s authors were concerned that this basic requirement was too simplistic.

35 What the Canadian study shows is that whilst the call for public consultation looks good on the surface in reality it fails to be an informed debate. When they spoke to members of the public in focus groups they found that:

"Most participants indicate that they learn about camera surveillance from newspapers and other media" (page 14)

36 This media driven information led to two assumptions:

"the first of which is that video surveillance effectively deters crime" (page 15)

37 The second being:

"that public monitoring can aid in responses to crime and after-the-fact investigations" (page 16)

38 But they went on to state that:

"During discussions about the deterrent effect of cameras, we referred to research suggesting that street lighting might be as, or more, effective as a deterrent (Painter and Tilley 1999). One senior’s response marks a modification of her earlier stance concerning CCTV as a deterrent." (page 18)

39 And that:

"When the deterrent effect of the cameras is similarly questioned with the other group of seniors, several reflect upon and revise prior assumptions." (page 18)

40 They also state that:

"Our attempts to argue that the reductive effect of video surveillance on violent crimes is empirically unsubstantiated (see Welsh and Farrington, 2009; Gill and Spriggs 2005; Painter and Tilley 1999) fell on deaf ears." (page 20)

41 Clearly it is essential that the public's view should be sought before surveillance cameras are installed but much work has to be done to make sure that the public is better informed. If the public is relying for its information about surveillance cameras on the parliamentarians (who just say the public wants it) and the media (tasked to say it works with the flawed logic that this will make it so) then the public will simply reflect the views of those they have been told to trust.

42 Any public consultation must present all of the facts including the many findings that show the ineffectiveness of CCTV and the substantive research on the negative impact surveillance cameras have on society.

43 The lack of public consultation in the run up to the installation of the Project Champion cameras in Birmingham has been cited as a major failing of the scheme. Whilst this is certainly true it does not mean that the cameras would have been appropriate had the public been consulted. Consultation must be seen as a way of having a full debate not just a box ticking exercise.


44 The CCTV provisions in the Protection of Freedoms Bill fall short of the grand rhetoric of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Freedom Bill that was published by the Liberal Democrat party in 2009. As the campaign group No CCTV has pointed out [17] : "Regulation does not address the core issues of removal of personal freedom, anonymity and other rights. It simply endorses acceptance of surveillance technologies by formalising their "proper use" and leaves no room for the rejection of such technology".

45 It is distressing that the new government has been unable to follow through on its promises to restore lost freedoms. It seems the support of technology regardless of its implications and consequences that was a characteristic of the last government continues unchallenged. This pretence at protecting freedoms is therefore all the more appalling in light of where this technology is heading - with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) such as the BAE HERTI being evaluated by the South Coast Partnership for civilian surveillance operations, cameras linked to databases and able to track individuals, facial recognition, video analytics such as behavioural recognition, cameras that record sound, track eye movements, crowd sourcing systems whereby members of the public watch CCTV feeds, and the list goes on.

46 The name of this Bill bears little relevance to its content with regard to surveillance cameras which will not address the serious issues facing the people and the environments in which they live.

March 2011


[2] ICO's report to Parliament on the state of surveillance, November 2010 -

[3] Page 19, Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime,





[8] 'Police have more than 10,000 ANPR cameras', Feb 2010 -





[13] Hansard HL Deb, 19 June 2009, c1295 -

[14] Hansard HC Deb, 8 September 2010, c387 -