Memorandum submitted by the Association
of Chief Police Officers
CRIME BUSINESS AREA
The Association of Chief Police Officers welcomes
the decision of the Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct an
Inquiry into "the surveillance society". The Inquiry
provides an opportunity to reflect on the extent to which an appropriate
balance has been struck between the Article 8 Rights of Citizens
on the one hand and the need to suppress criminality on the other.
The Select Committee has adopted a very broad
definition of surveillance. The definition contained within the
relevant legislation is narrower, yet it still manages to be a
source of great confusion within the law enforcement community,
as do several other concepts on which the legislation relies.
Taken together, recent and future technological advances, and
the experience of several years of the regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act 2000, give good reason to take a fresh look at the
current range of definitions used within the legal framework for
Directed and Intrusive surveillance, CCTV, Automated
Number Plate Readers (ANPR) and data retrieved from a range of
other sources are fundamental to effective law enforcement. Together
they have saved many thousands of lives and have prevented thousands
of citizens from becoming victims of crime. The benefits are felt
across society and help us manage threats ranging from neighbourhood
anti-social behaviour to international terrorism.
Since 2004, ACPO has participated with the Home
Office in a joint review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers
Act 2000 (RIPA). The review has recommended changes to the primary
legislation to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, to redraft the
codes of practice and to develop better mechanisms for providing
guidance to police and other law enforcement officials. ACPO believes
that covert surveillance and intrusive techniques should be properly
authorised and accepts that this process will, of necessity, need
to be appropriately recorded. But the regime that has developed
around RIPA has become unnecessarily bureaucratic and has been
characterised by a risk-averse approach that has proved wasteful
and has hampered investigations.
ACPO believes that the supervisory and inspection
arrangements around the police use of covert techniques are unnecessarily
complex and could be simplified. While the use of surveillance
techniques by public authorities is highly regulated, the same
is not true of their use by private individuals and businesses.
In particular, CCTV systems are operated by many businesses where
no clear standards have been established and there has been no
registration, inspection, training or enforcement. The quality
of much equipment (and the subsequent evidential product) is variable.
Sophisticated surveillance equipment is readily accessible to
private individuals from a range of open sources. The inquiry
provides a welcome opportunity to reassess this, although ACPO
would not encourage the development of a regulatory regime that
would be costly or which would discourage use of private CCTV.
In Summary, ACPO would welcome:
An acknowledgment of the fundamental
value of surveillance, in its broadest sense, to crime investigation
A reduction of unnecessary bureaucracy.
A rebalancing of control between
the highly regulated enforcement sector and other users of surveillance.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)
is an independent, professionally led, strategic body. In the
public interest and, in equal and active partnership with Government
and the Association of Police Authorities, ACPO leads and co-ordinates
the direction and development of the police service in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland. ACPO's 341 members are police officers
of Assistant Chief Constable rank (Commanders in the Metropolitan
and City of London Police) and above and senior police staff managers
in the 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and other
forces such as the British Transport Police and States of Jersey
ACPO welcomes the Home Affairs Select Committee
Inquiry into "a surveillance society". The Inquiry has
implications for a broad range of ACPO work portfolios and working
groups. This initial submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee
is intended to simply highlight several broad areas that ACPO
feels might benefit from scrutiny as part of this Inquiry. These
data retrieval and other techniques;
the regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act 2000;
the regulatory regime; and
the non-regulated use of surveillance.
The Home Affairs Select Committee has adopted
a very broad interpretation of "surveillance"'. It extends
beyond the conventional concept of directed surveillance which
is defined within RIPA. The Review of RIPA (see below) found that
even this limited concept was open to confusion and misinterpretation.
The risk of misinterpretation grows as the scope of what we mean
by "surveillance" is broadened. Technological advances
also broaden the possibilities available to law enforcement agencies
and others. Taken together, these considerations suggest that
the time is right for a review of these definitions and an improvement
in our ability to articulate what we mean by each term.
RIPA has little to say about the scope of surveillance:
it would be helpful to articulate a differentiation between "watching"
and "seeing", for example. Similarly, there is a distinction
between "live surveillance" and the acquisition of "historic"
information. A debate would be welcome on when data becomes "historic"what
if it is retrieved from a system that recorded it a matter of
seconds ago? Practitioners also struggle with the distinction
between visual surveillance and electronic surveillance, and with
the concept of "private information"especially
in public places. Technologies exist today that were scarcely
envisaged when RIPA was enacted. They provide great opportunities
to criminals and the law enforcement community should be equipped
with a framework to use them appropriately, too.
It is often suggested that there are 4.2 million
surveillance cameras in the United Kingdom. This figure is an
estimate, based on the number of cameras found on Putney High
Street, London and then extrapolated to provide a figure for the
United Kingdom as a whole. That was produced in 2002. The results
of this study should be treated with caution. The same study found
that 84% of surveillance cameras are operated by private businesses
in shops, pubs, clubs and other commercial premises. The use of
CCTV cameras in these "private places" is common practice
in most western societies and in this respect, the United Kingdom
differs little from many other countries in terms of the number
or use of cameras involved.
The remaining 16% of surveillance cameras were
identified as being located in those areas which can be described
as "public space" and were operated by local authorities
and other public agencies in places such as open streets, transport
systems, hospitals and schools. It is the regular surveillance
of public streets by local authority controlled cameras that sets
the United Kingdom apart from many other countries in terms of
CCTV surveillance. There is little use of street cameras in many
European or North American countries, although this is beginning
to change as governments begin to recognise the effectiveness
of CCTV in the investigation of serious crime and terrorism. It
is estimated that there are 30,000 street cameras in England and
Wales, the majority operated by local authorities.
The availability of CCTV images greatly assists
in the investigation of crime and disorder. Although the crime
reduction capability of CCTV is sometimes disputed, the contribution
to crime investigation is significant and the recovery of available
CCTV evidence is one of the first actions taken during a major
investigation. The contribution of CCTV images to crime investigation
is not recorded in a systematic manner; it is likely to equal
that of fingerprints and DNA in terms of its overall contribution
to the detection of crime.
ACPO identifies a number of
recent terrorist investigations where CCTV images have played
a substantial and significant part two recent terrorist trials,
each with national prominence, which simply would not have taken
place had it not been for the availability of CCTV evidence.
A case study from Merseyside
Police reveals the use of ANPR and CCTV systems in connection
with a specific operation, currently operated by Merseyside Police
in the Liverpool and Wirral local authority areas. This operation,
which is ongoing, uses the systems to locate and then track suspicious
vehicles until dedicated police teams can stop them. To date,
this policing activity alone has resulted in over 200 arrests
and the seizure of 150 stolen vehicles.
At a neighbourhood level, the
following case is typical. In October 2006 a CCTV operator in
Warrington became suspicious about the behaviour of youths walking
through the town centre. For 40 minutes the operator tracked the
youths because he felt they were "looking for trouble".
One of the youths suddenly armed himself with a large piece of
wood and began a totally unprovoked attack on a young man in the
street. The other youths quickly joined in. The CCTV operator
used the police radio to summon help. Police arrived and two offenders
were arrested near the scene. The third escaped but was later
arrested after his CCTV image was published in the local press.
The offenders were jailed for an offence of wounding with intent.
ACPO has produced a clear position paper highlighting
the need for a strategy for the further development of CCTV in
the United Kingdom. This strategy identifies the need for:
guidelines on registration,
inspection and enforcement;
the police use of CCTV;
emerging technologies, changing
threats, new and changing priorities; and
The strategy has now been completed and is awaiting
publication following Ministerial approval.
ANPR AND OTHER
The value of broader "surveillance"
to policing extends far beyond CCTV. The acquisition, analysis
and evidential use of data produced and stored in connection with
everyday modern technologies is fundamental to crime investigation.
The following examples from the Police Service of Northern Ireland
The investigation into the Omagh
bombing in which 29 people were murdered. Tracking the movements
of mobile phones as they made or received calls using historic
data was an essential part of this investigation.
The conviction in Northern Ireland
of Louis Maguire in April 2007 for murder relied heavily on evidence
gathered by sensitive and intrusive techniques authorised under
RIPA. Without this ability, there would have been insufficient
evidence to convict Maguire and a dangerous criminal would still
be at large.
In March 2007, colleagues from
the Police Service of Northern Ireland successfully traced the
mobile telephone of a seventeen year old girl who had left messages
threatening suicide. She was discovered in a hotel bedroom having
taken an overdose and was saved by police. Her life was only saved
because public authorities were in a position to use data obtained
Without the ability to make lawful and effective
use of these techniques, the effectiveness of the police service
would be massively compromised.
RIPA was enacted in 2000 to provide the framework
which would enable law enforcement bodies to interfere with individual
Article 8 Rights when there was good reason to do so. It gradually
became a source of more and more complaint to Ministers, Members
of Parliament and senior police officers. Officers found the legislation,
or at least the way in which it had been interpreted, to be a
source of unnecessary bureaucracy.
Responding to these concerns, a review of the
legislation was launched in 2004. The Review explored a range
of intrusive techniques, including directed surveillance, the
acquisition of communications data, intrusive surveillance and
covert human intelligence sources.
The Review found that the legislation had several
ambiguities and deficiencies, although many of the problems that
had been identified were linked to the way it had been implemented.
There was diverse interpretation and application of the law and
the training provided within the law enforcement community had
been piecemeal. Several sources of guidance had emergedand
sadly these would regularly contradict each other.
In particular, the Review identified a proliferation
of unnecessary bureaucracy which was borne of a generally "risk
averse" approach. This risk aversion, and continues to mean
to this day, that there is little in the way of case law to guide
investigators and Senior Investigating Officersas the prevailing
"safety-first" mindset offers little prospect of a challenge
in the courtroom.
ACPO continues to work with the Home Office
to develop a single source of advice and a reliable doctrine or
guidance document for use by investigators.
ACPO urges the Home Affairs Select Committee
to consider the case for making amendments to RIPA: amendments
which acknowledge the need for appropriate levels of recording,
but which would encourage the reduction in the inappropriate bureaucratic
burden that has developed since RIPA was enacted.
ACPO acknowledges the need for independent scrutiny
of the police use of covert techniques, and welcomes the likely
benefit in terms of public confidence. The Office of Surveillance
Commissioners supervises some of the police surveillance referred
to above. But police forces are also subject of inspection by
the Information Commissioner and the Interception of Communications
Commissioner. These supervisory arrangements sit alongside the
established inspectorate function for policingHMIC. The
Commissioners' officers work entirely independently of each other
and adopt different methodologies, have different styles and do
not co-ordinate their inspection activities.
Several police forces report bidding farewell
to one inspection team a matter of days before welcoming a team
from a different inspectorate's office. ACPO believes that bureaucracy
could be reduced and greater cohesion and efficiency achieved
by exploring the establishment of a single Commissioner for activities
governed by RIPA.
Whilst the use of surveillance techniques by
the police and other public authorities is very tightly regulated,
the same is not true of other users of surveillance. Advanced
surveillance devices are readily accessible on the open market
and prosecutions for their misuse are very unusual.
Police colleagues are required to have a high
level of authority before accumulating data that will provide
a detailed picture of a person that will provide comprehensive
information about their private liveswhereas other organisations,
including large commercial organisations appear able to do so
The Home Affairs Select Committee may well conclude
that this is an appropriate moment to recommend a rebalancing
of the regulatory framework in circumstances that would reduce
the burden of inappropriate bureaucracy on public authorities
and put controls in place on other, currently unregulated, users
of `surveillance'. It would be, however, disadvantageous to introduce
a regulatory regime that is costly and which discourages the use
of private CCTV.