By Andrew Wood
In the debate over CCTV the two sides are presented in a very polarised light: those for CCTV believe they are upholding the law and reducing crime; those against believe they are upholding civil liberties and freedoms. But what if CCTV was in fact unlawful? What if its use contravened laws which uphold our rights and freedoms?
Often the only way that such questions of lawfulness are resolved is through court action but the potential costs or loss of livelihood are sufficient to dissuade most people from even starting. I write as someone who is pursuing such a court action by way of a judicial review of police surveillance – namely the "routine" surveillance which police undertake at political events.
Here is a summary of my case, as laid out on the website I have set up www.judicialreview.org.uk:
On 27 April 2005, the claimant - Andrew Wood – attended the Annual General Meeting of Reed Elsevier, a publisher of academic, educational and scientific books and journals. Reed had recently purchased a company which organised arms fairs, including the bi-annual arms fair in Docklands, London called DSEi (Defence Systems & Equipment International Exhibition). The claimant worked for Campaign Against Arms Trade, which opposes arms exports, as their media co-ordinator. He was one of a number of shareholders from CAAT attending the AGM in the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London.
CAAT had liaised with the Metropolitan Police prior to the AGM; it was agreed that two representatives would leaflet shareholders at the hotel entrance. No other demonstration took place outside the hotel.
The AGM started with an address from the directors to a very sparsely attended meeting. The AGM was interrupted when two women, who were not CAAT staff, chanted slogans opposing arms. After they'd been ejected by security guards then the meeting continued as normal. Later, shareholders were invited to ask questions of the Board; the decision by Reed to purchase a company organising arms fairs was contested.
At the end of the AGM, the claimant left with the research co-ordinator of CAAT, Ian Prichard. After leaving the hotel they stopped to talk with one of the CAAT staff who'd been leafleting. The first photograph exhibited by the police shows this conversation; the association apparently triggered the subsequent surveillance of the claimant and Mr Prichard. The police do not claim they knew of the claimant's employment by CAAT prior to the surveillance.
As the CAAT staff conversed, a police vehicle drew up beside them and an officer got out to photograph them. He stood close-by, repeatedly and intrusively photographing them. The police claim that one of the women who'd been ejected from the AGM associated with the group, which is denied.
The claimant and the research co-ordinator left the Square to walk to the tube station nearby, followed by police officers on foot. A police vehicle drew-up and a number of officers stopped the two men. They were repeatedly photographed and questioned. The research co-ordinator answered some of the police questions but the claimant replied that he was going about his lawful business and the two walked to Bond Street underground station, again followed by police. After passing through the ticket barriers at the station, the claimant was asked for his ticket by one of the underground staff. The police admit that they asked the underground staff to examine the claimant's ticket to obtain his details. The pursuit ended when the two men continued to the station platform.
The police have provided exhibits of officer's notebooks and computer records showing the claimant and others were under police surveillance as they left the AGM. Photographs of the claimant and other CAAT staff were also filed. Police say the photographs are used to produce photo-sheets for identification at other events.
The claimant believes the police actions are in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, in particular Article 8 - respect for private and family life; Article 10 - freedom of Expression; Article 11 - freedom of assembly and association; and Article 14 - prohibition of discrimination. The full text of the European Convention on Human Rights can be found at the appropriate page of the European Court of Human Rights
The case is in the high court this week – watch this space!
More information about the case including court documents can be found at www.judicialreview.org.uk.