CCTV – The Hidden Agenda

cctv07:41 Monday 12th August 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: New guidelines on the use of CCTV cameras come into force today. They say there must always be a legitimate and specified purpose for the cameras. But some campaigners say the new rules don’t go far enough, and will only cover public bodies not private organisations. Nick Pickles is the Director of Big Brother Watch. (TAPE)
NICK PICKLES: Public authorities will have to pay attention to the Code, but private organisations and individuals won’t. So I think where we need to really assess if the system is working is whether the Commissioner can influence those people who are not directly covered by the Code. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well figures released by Big Brother Watch today show over £14 million was spent on CCTV by councils in Cambridgeshire between 2007 and 2011. Charles Farrier is one of the founders of the group No CCTV. Morning Charles.
PAUL STAINTON: Your reaction first of all to that – that’s a big number isn’t it, £14 million in very austere times.
CHARLES FARRIER: Absolutely. There always seems to be money for CCTV. You can close a school, close a hospital, but somehow they always find the money for CCTV.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Some would say though it will help solve crimes, it will help cut crimes. It will have helped put people in jail. That’s not a bad thing.
CHARLES FARRIER: I wouldn’t say any of those things are a bad thing. I would question whether it does any of those things though, and I think that the research calls that into question in a big way. But this is meant to be about protecting freedoms, this new code. It’s not meant to be about whether these things work or not. That’s already been done. That research has been done, and people need to go and look at that. And I promise you the research on that is fairly damning.
PAUL STAINTON: So why do councils keep spending money on it if it doesn’t really work?
CHARLES FARRIER: Because the very reason that you would bring that up, and that other people bring that up without checking it. No-one ever checks. We’ve been banging on about this for years, saying people go and check the Home Office’s own research. But they know the public won’t check it, and so everyone’s happy with it. We have people saying it seems to be doing something. It’s security theatre. It plays well.
PAUL STAINTON: So they quite like the fact they can keep tabs on us? Is that what you’re saying?
CHARLES FARRIER: I’m not saying that.
PAUL STAINTON: There can’t be any other reason. If it doesn’t work, what’s the point of it?
CHARLES FARRIER: Well you’re saying that. I would agree.
PAUL STAINTON: But you’re saying the research says it doesn’t work.
CHARLES FARRIER: The research says it doesn’t work. Their own research says it doesn’t work, so yes, absolutely, there’s another reason. I’m not telling you what that other reason is. I’ll leave that to you to work out. But it certainly isn’t for crime prevention.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. Ok. So these new rules, just explain exactly what they mean now.
CHARLES FARRIER: They mean nothing. There’s already a CCTV Code which follows the Data Protection Act. This is a new CCTV Code that follows the Data Protection Act. What they’re doing is reissuing something, trying to make a big noise about it. I would disagree that this doesn’t affect local private people. They’re already bound by the Data Protection Act. They still will be. This is nothing new. This is business as usual, dressed up as something entirely different. We think it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.
PAUL STAINTON: What would you like to see?
CHARLES FARRIER: Serious questions about surveillance cameras. Things like what is the problem you’re trying to solve. What else have you tried? Cameras should be the last resort, not the first resort. And that’s the problem at the moment.
PAUL STAINTON: If you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to hide. Surely they make us feel safer, don’t they? If I get attacked on the street in the middle of Cambridge, then it’s on tape and the perpetrator will be caught.
CHARLES FARRIER: Well if that were the case then we would have no crime, wouldn’t we? There are so many cameras in this country, and yet crime persists. And that’s because there’s a bit more to crime prevention than just putting up a camera. And I think people can work that one out. The idea that you should allow anybody to do anything to you as long as it’s for crime prevention is a dangerous path to go down. You wouldn’t allow policemen to break down your door, search your house, just in case, because you’ve got nothing to hide. I think you’d realise there are limits on this, and we need to understand the same with cameras.
PAUL STAINTON: So the cameras are no good. A complete waste of time. And new rules are a waste of time. We’re spending millions of pounds that we’re just wasting in your opinion. So which way do we go then? Do we rip all CCTV cameras down?
CHARLES FARRIER: We certainly need an assessment of the amount of money that’s being spent on them. And that money could be spent on proper crime prevention. If all of that money was invested correctly, then we might see some real improvements in the lives of people, instead of just wasting money on stuff.
PAUL STAINTON: Interesting conversation Charles. Thank you for coming on. Charles Farrier, one of the founders of the group No-CCTV, says they’re a complete waste of time, CCTV cameras, an infringement of our public liberties. They waste an inordinate amount of cash and don’t work.