A landlord in North London has won his fight against CCTV in pubs. Nick Gibson had been told by local police that he must "install CCTV capturing a head and shoulder shot of every person entering the pub" in order to get his license. Gibson wasn't happy with such demands, viewing cameras as an affront to the civil liberties of his customers, and so he determined to fight the installation of CCTV and took his battle to the media.
A letter to the Guardian led to a string of comment pieces and alarm in several newspapers, magazines, web sites, blogs as well as being discussed on radio phone in shows. This then led to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) wading into the debate, an ICO spokesperson commenting that:
Hardwiring surveillance into the UK's pubs raises serious privacy concerns. We are concerned at the prospect of landlords being forced into installing CCTV in pubs as a matter of routine in order to meet the terms of a licence. We will now be speaking with the Metropolitan Police about the blanket requirement for licensed premises in certain boroughs to install CCTV surveillance.
In the face of such widespread attention the police/local authority were forced to climb down. Under the Licensing Act 2003 police can make recommendations in the granting of licenses, which is still controlled by local authorities. What this victory highlights is that things can be changed by people who do something, rather than give up because it seems that the fight is too hard to win. We have more power than we think we have - all it takes is for more people to follow his lead and take a stand.
Gibson told the Islington Gazzette:
The police originally requested that we put in CCTV and have now agreed that we don't have to, which is great. We now want to focus on getting the pub right and moving forwards.
Unfortunately the fight against CCTV in pubs isn't over yet. There are still powers in Clause 31 of the Policing and Crime Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, that will be used to extend the powers of police to impose licensing conditions not only for pubs and clubs but also shops and off licenses. If this bill is passed into law then CCTV could be introduced as a condition of all licenses. Now is the time to write to your MP telling him/her about the danger to our liberties if Clause 31 of this bill is passed. You should also write to members of the House of Lords asking them to strike down these powers when the bill reaches the House of Lords.
The Drapers Arms will open CCTV free in May.