Surveillance: Citizens and the State - Constitution Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-153)

Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, Assistant Chief Constable Nick Gargan and Deputy Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard

16 JANUARY 2008

  Q140  Baroness O'Cathain: Can you chuck them all into the box?

  Assistant Chief Constable Gargan: Yes.

  Q141  Lord Morris of Aberavon: Are there inherent dangers in combining these various bodies? We would all be in favour of reducing bureaucracy and saving money or whatever. Is not the advantage of having different persons making the reports that one or other might be more radical in their suggestions? I am currently reading The Life of Sir Robert Peel, which may encourage you. There always has been an argument against a national police force. That is a simple argument I suppose for combining each of these three independent bodies.

  Assistant Chief Constable Gargan: They may be more radical the one and the other. They certainly, as I have tried to get across this morning, do approach these issues from different perspectives already.

  Q142  Lord Lyell of Markyate: ACPO suggests that citizens could benefit if the Investigatory Powers Tribunal were better marketed and understood. I suspect most citizens have never heard of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Can you explain a little bit how citizens might benefit and what happens?

  Assistant Chief Constable Gargan: It is important to repeat the point—and I apologise for doing so—that these techniques are vital to the Police. Covert techniques are fundamental to what we do. We know that in order for us to be able to continue to use these techniques, we need to prove ourselves trustworthy. Therefore, we seek opportunities to show that we apply the highest professional standards and that we deserve the trust that the community places in us to carry out covert investigative techniques. Anything that is out there that will assist in demonstrating our transparency, that will assist in demonstrating our integrity, the integrity of our systems, and that will offer a redress to those who feel that they have been wrongly treated by what we do or may have been wrongly treated, anything that addresses those three themes along with the theme of compliance with human rights and with the legislation, is very welcome. If you have something that is expressly designed to do that and provide that reassurance and yet very few people know about it, it seems to represent a missed opportunity. Several Police forces contributed to this submission which I have edited on behalf of ACPO, and more than one made the point that we would be very happy to encourage that greater scrutiny.

  Q143  Lord Lyell of Markyate: How many cases a year come before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal?

  Assistant Chief Constable Gargan: I do not know. I was speaking to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency the other day and apparently what happens is that when somebody writes in to the tribunal that they suspect they may be the subject of surveillance, the tribunal will send out to organisations to ask who may or may not be active against a particular individual. There are two particular categories of people of whom we are quite wary. One is the criminal who might want to know whether they are being surveilled by the police, and there is a potential usefulness to them in knowing that. The second is some people who are potentially mentally disordered and they feel that they perceive things that the rest of us would perhaps not perceive, and that is not limited to police surveillance but alien surveillance and other categories too. In terms of the work out of the tribunal, I am not aware but I believe that there has only ever been one publication of a tribunal finding since its inception, and I cannot even give you a memorable name, I think it is the case of C.

  Q144  Lord Lyell of Markyate: Why do you say it should be better marketed? It sounds as though there is nothing to market?

  Assistant Chief Constable Gargan: Perhaps the issue is that the Tribunal ought to be encouraged to be a more publicly visible facility both in terms of encouraging people to use it and, where meaningful claims have been made, to actually publicise those findings so as to reassure the community that they are being protected and we are using our powers responsibly.

  Q145  Lord Rowlands: If we can turn to CCTV. Before I ask a question about the National CCTV Strategy, could you perhaps clarify exactly where we are on the effectiveness of CCTV? I ask that because I do not know if you have had a chance to read any of the previous evidence given to us, this is Professor Norris and co., who in a series of exchanges said that the Gill study said in 2004 that CCTV had very limited impact in reducing fear of crime and quotes another one, the Ditton team in Glasgow, who found crime increased when CCTV was introduced, and then Farrington and Walsh said it would be better spent on more street lighting. Where do you stand on the assessment of the effectiveness of CCTV?

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: It depends how you define the word "effective". Certainly a lot of the academic research would tend to suggest that in relation to reducing crime then it has mixed results. It certainly has mixed results in terms of town centres where a lot of the crime is alcohol related. Before CCTV can effectively deter people (a) they need to know that the cameras are there, (b) they have got to be thinking rationally and about the consequences of their behaviour, and (c), the CCTV needs to be able to summon an appropriate response because if it does not then it is a little bit like somebody stood on a street corner watching you but doing nothing about it and in the long-term it might not deter behaviour. The evidence and academic research that I have seen says it is very effective in places like car parks where offenders are going out specifically to break into cars and are thinking rationally and about the way they are going to do it, but in terms of our town centres, where a lot of the behaviour is violent or disorderly behaviour, often fuelled by alcohol, people are not thinking rationally, they get angry and the CCTV camera is the last thing they think about and even the presence of police officers does not deter them from fighting and being disorderly in the streets, so cameras are not likely to. In terms of reducing crime there are mixed results and I fully accept that. The research in terms of reducing the fear of crime, if you look at Professor Martin Gill's research study from the Home Office, he said there was some quite good indication that it reduces the public's fear of crime. If you look at where most of the pressure is for CCTV in the community, the vast majority of it comes from the public who actually want it within their local communities. It is certainly not being driven by the Police Service, it is actually being driven by the local communities. I think some of them then get disappointed when the CCTV goes in, and Martin Gill's research tends to suggest that, because they have high hopes for it and because it does not deter as much crime as they thought it was going to do—

  Q146  Lord Rowlands: Do you think the public can sometimes get misled on the benefits of CCTV?

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: I think the public may have a different expectation in terms of the amount of crime that CCTV might prevent.[1] The principal measure of effectiveness as far as the Police Service is concerned is in relation to the support of the investigative process. When a crime has occurred CCTV is a vital element of the investigative process. It is not an understatement to say now that the first piece of evidence that an investigating officer will go looking for is the CCTV evidence. The first investigative action very often is secure all available CCTV evidence. Interestingly, there is very little academic research on the effectiveness and usefulness of CCTV in the investigation of crime, most of it is focused on does it reduce crime, not what is the impact of it in terms of investigating crime. You only need to watch the television on a daily basis and to read the media on a daily basis to see how many crimes are detected, or certainly the investigation greatly assisted, as a result of CCTV evidence.

  Q147  Lord Rowlands: I was interested because it was implied in part of your evidence that you do not collect evidence of how CCTV is being used in the investigation of crime in a thorough and comprehensive way whereas I noticed the Chief Constable on DNA said that you measure success rates by the use of data. If that is the basis of the case for putting so much investment into CCTV, why are you not collecting what would be obvious evidence?

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: We are in the process of doing that. We were required through Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and the Police Standards Unit to justify the expenditure around DNA fingerprints and in order to do that we are required to record the amount of crimes that are detected, both primary detections and secondary detections, offences taken into consideration, that come from both fingerprint and DNA. There has been no requirement on the Police Service to do that in relation to CCTV.

  Q148  Lord Rowlands: There has been large investment.

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: The investment, interestingly, has not been made by the Police Service. If it had been made by the Police Service I suspect Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary would be asking what we had done with the money. The vast majority of public space CCTV is owned, monitored and run by local authorities. They are, understandably so, crying out for some information that supports the effectiveness of it and I would dearly like to provide that to them, and one of the recommendations within the National Strategy is that the Police Service do exactly that. My view is that we are unlikely to persuade government to invest further in CCTV if we cannot show the effectiveness of CCTV. The Martin Gill research study that the Home Office sponsored was an attempt to do that but it did not ask the right questions. All it did ask was ask "how much crime does CCTV reduce or prevent" rather than "how effective is CCTV in the investigation of crime". It is very difficult to put a cost on it but several years ago London was suffering from a nail bombing campaign by an individual by the name of Copeland and his avowed intention was to start a race war. He was targeting specific parts of London with his nail bombs and there were extremist groups claiming responsibility for the actions. That event was entirely supported by CCTV evidence in terms of actually detecting that crime. What value do you put on the price of that detection? How do you start to value those sorts of things?

  Q149  Lord Rowlands: You are doing it in the case of DNA so presumably there is a methodology you can apply.

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: There is a methodology in terms of counting the detections. We had the same issue with the recent situation in terms of the bombings of London, what value does society put on those detections, and that is an issue right across the board in terms of detecting crime. We are in the process of developing our system of counting the number of detections where CCTV assists. I am of the view, and from limited research we have done in my own force area, we get more detections from CCTV or CCTV assisting in the detection of crime than we do from fingerprints and DNA combined.

  Q150  Lord Rowlands: You did mention the National CCTV Strategy and there are 44 recommendations in that Strategy. Can you give us some order of priority and how are you going to carry it forward?

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: As a co-author I think all 44 are very important, but I would say that, wouldn't I? The Strategy was written as a result of a concern that I had, that I expressed through ACPO that then went on to the Home Office, that we have probably the most extensive public CCTV surveillance network in the world, we are the envy of many governments and certainly the envy of most police forces in the world. Most of them cannot understand how it has happened and why the British public and the British Government have allowed it to happen, and they cannot understand how we have managed to get it in place. But, despite having a very extensive CCTV network, it has been developed in a piecemeal way, it has been developed in a relatively un-coordinated way, and we are not making maximum use of its effectiveness. As the technology changes it is a significant issue for everybody involved right the way through the criminal justice system to play catch-up. My colleagues in the courts, for example, are still just getting over the development of VHS recorders where the rest of us are looking at the next development past digital and DVDs, Blu-ray and all sorts of stuff like that. There is real potential for a massive waste of money if we do not co-ordinate this together. My number one priority would therefore be some sort of national body, and it is a recommendation, around managing this whole approach and co-ordinating the whole approach of public CCTV in this country because without it we have every local authority doing their own thing, every police force trying to catch up with every local authority doing their own thing, every CPS Service, every Probation Service, every magistrates' court, crown court and defence solicitors all trying to get behind somebody else's bit of technology. At the moment I am taking perfectly good digitally recorded CCTV evidence and putting it on to an old-fashioned VHS cassette to allow it to be played in some parts of the criminal justice system at significant cost and degradation of the quality of the image. It cannot go on like that. I think we need some form of national co-ordination board. Secondly, if I am allowed three, it is around driving out some standards. At the moment we are faced with hundreds and hundreds of digital imaging formats. It is a bit like the current argument they are having about Blu-ray and HD DVD, but if I turn it back a bit it is like VHS and Betamax. If you can imagine instead of having VHS and Betamax, add another 400 different formats. My police officers can go out and recover CCTV and find it in any one of those 400 formats without the necessary playback software available. What used to be a very simple and straightforward task for us to recover CCTV evidence, which was to go and get the VHS cassette and put it in the police station, is now becoming quite a technical process and the Police Service is having to move towards employing people with technical expertise just to get the evidence and that is because there are so many different formats out there. If this is CCTV that public money is being spent on I would like some form of standard so it is compatible right the way through the process. Finally, there is no point having standards if they are not enforceable so that requires some form of mechanism. We talk about appropriate legislation but it might be just tightening up some of the existing codes of practice and some inspection regime that says to people, "This is what we require of you". Every time you see a poor quality CCTV image it is not fit for purpose and if it is not fit for purpose it does not comply with the legislation which covers it, which is the Data Protection Act, and that is not being effectively policed. The Police Service and the criminal justice system is wasting a huge amount of time on trying to manage and recover CCTV that is inappropriate, we are missing detection opportunities and that needs to be dragged together.

  Q151  Lord Rowlands: You say somewhere in your evidence that the vast majority of cameras are in the private sector anyway, is that right?

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: Yes.

  Q152  Lord Rowlands: If so, have you got any recommendations on how you relate the public sector CCTV systems with the private sector?

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: That is the difficulty. In fairness to my colleagues in the public sector, in the main their systems are pretty good because they work fairly closely with us, but we are duty bound to gather evidence from wherever we can, so we are duty bound to gather evidence if it is available, and very often the evidence that we gather does not relate to the premises that we gather it from. It might be an assault in the street and the CCTV system from a shop has captured that assault in the street, so we are asking them to provide us with the CCTV evidence to help prove an investigation or support an investigation that is nothing to do with them. We are in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, we do not want to dissuade them from providing us with the CCTV evidence but, on the other hand, we would dearly like them to improve the quality. There is a dilemma around how we drive up the quality of CCTV in the private sector. Bear in mind that could also comply with the Data Protection Act in most cases and if that was properly enforced we perhaps could do it that way.

  Q153  Lord Peston: In my judgment, I think Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard has anwered my two questions when he was talking to Lord Rowlands, but could I just make sure I understand his answer to the last of the questions. You seemed to say that you do favour a national body to regulate all this, number one, and, secondly, you seemed to say you think it ought to have real powers to make sure it gets its own way. Did I rightly interpret what you were saying as that?

  Deputy Chief Constable Gerrard: Certainly a national body to co-ordinate the development of CCTV in the UK and to make the most of the significant public investment we have already put in. When the money originally went out, it went out to lots of local authorities and at that stage none of the local authorities had any expertise around the development of CCTV, although they have it now. We do need to better co-ordinate. Certainly a national body to co-ordinate and then some form of legislative support or increased powers perhaps for the Information Commissioner's office to drive up the standards of CCTV, not just in the public sector but the private sector so that the CCTV that we are taking is appropriate. At the end of the day if the public think the camera is there they should expect the camera to do the job at least. If we are going to the trouble of taking pictures of people they should be fit for purpose otherwise it is a double-whammy against the public, is it not, you have conned them into thinking that they are being covered by CCTV but the images are not any good. We need some way of driving up the quality of the images.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, on behalf of the Committee can I thank you very much indeed for your attendance and the evidence you have given. Thank you very much.

1   Note by witness: The witness wished the record to reflect that he meant that "the public may have a different expectation in terms of the amount of crime that CCTV might prevent". Back

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