It is becoming all too common in the UK for police to impose illiberal demands as a condition of getting a pub license. The latest demand that has come to light is requiring that pubs install CCTV cameras. One landlord in North London was told by local police that he must "install CCTV capturing a head and shoulder shot of every person entering the pub". Nick Gibson who wants to re-open the Drapers Arms in Islington was not happy with this as he quite rightly believes it as an affront to the civil liberties of his customers.
Under the Licensing Act 2003 police can make recommendations in the granting of licenses, which is still controlled by local authorities. However it seems that the police have taken it upon themselves to actually impose conditions. It is effectively the police who are granting or refusing licenses. Police in many areas such as Richmond and Thames Valley have imposed blanket CCTV requirements similar to Islington.
Pubs have effectively become a front-line in the battle over our freedoms in the UK. Pubs now routinely ask for photo ID such as drivers license and passport, whilst some even ask customers to be fingerprinted before having a pint. For more on fingerprinting in pubs see NO2ID.
Many of these measures are introduced under the banner of "PubWatch" or "Safer[Insert name of town]" - shadowy coalitions of bodies that allow policy laundering by local authorities and police. When we asked a local pub who introduced mandatory ID-ing of customers they told us it was the police as part of PubWatch. When we asked the police they said it was the local authority. When we asked the local authority they said it was the pub. Nobody took ownership of the decision. A similar situation will no doubt emerge with regards to CCTV.
Going to a pub is not an illegal act. Under age drinking does not warrant the blanket suspicion and illiberal treatment of us all. CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool particularly in situations where alcohol fuelled violence takes place.
Unfortunately it seems that far too many people will give up their freedoms for a pint. It's time to boycott illiberal pubs. Don`t give in and get a home-brew kit - get angry and do something. There are many ways in which we can fight for our Liberties.
No CCTV will be at the satellite Convention on Modern Liberty in Bristol on Saturday 28th February.