back to article Police law-interpretation: What next?

The Information Commissioner has given the Metropolitan Police a good ticking-off for attempting to bring about the blanket introduction of CCTV in pubs. Their stance on the issue "raised serious privacy issues", which is data protection speak for "could possibly be unlawful". In response, the Met’s initial reaction – a …


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  1. John A Blackley

    Problem upon problem

    Once upon a time, in a land far away, they had an insect problem. To solve the problem they brought in lots of lizards which, having no natural predators in that land, bred so much they became a problem. So they brought in rats to eat the lizards and the rats, having no natural predators, became a problem so the people brought in cats. The cats had no natural predators and became a problem so the citizens brought in dogs. Eventually, as the dogs had no natural predators, they bred and bred and became wild and ate all the people in the land.

    Once upon a time in Britain, they had a criminal problem. To solve the problem, they invented the police force.................................................................

  2. Scott
    Thumb Down

    Can see the point

    When i was attacked by the manager and door man of a pub in my area and i reported it to the police even though they had CCTV proving i was quietly having a drink when i was dragged out side and assult the police did nothing so i don't see the point of this as even when they have CCTV they can't be botherted to do there job.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stay out of the UK

    Look at this case, a man was arrested for looking funny at a sealed manhole cover and held for 2 days on terrorism charges.

    There is not the pretence of rights about this, he has no way to stop what was happening to him and there was no control or mechanism that stopped the police detaining him for no reason.

    UK is not a safe place for innocent people to be.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I was at the

    licensing session about the Drapers on wednsday, they had 3 hearings and all 3 pubs had CCTV as part of the police conditions...seem's Islington plod make their own laws too.

  5. Eddie

    What to say...

    To be honest, I'd like to say a lot. Because of the sweeping powers that the police have taken on themselves, I'm not actually going to say anything.

    I used to carry a camera at all times, because I'm a keen photographer and you never know what you might see - now I don't, because I'm afraid of the police reaction if I take a photograph in my home city.

    I know that if my car is vandalised, broken into, or similar, phoning the police is going to get me no-where, and I can't get access to the ubiquitious CCTV cameras, because the police won't let me.

    In all honesty, I now fear the police, not because of anything I have done, but because of what I may be construed to have done.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is why

    This is why Police shouldn't be allowed to interpret law, they just put enforce it, it's up to judges to interpret it, and Parliment to make it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just read the Daily Mail and sware by every word.

    If you are not doing anything wrong, why are you worried? After all, everyone knows that the Police only arrest criminals.

    I for one always feel far more secure in the knowledge that CCTV is monitoring my every move, and that should any hooded yob attack me, the Police can immediately finger him.

    A Daily Mail reader.

    (Actually, I'm not, but this seems to be the opinion that permeates the chattering classes, and stops them from complaining when these kind of things come up)

    To the Met, it's a bloody good idea, because it helps them enforce the law and cuts the costs of detection, to the rest of us it's an unnecessary invasion of our privacy. It's not just about cutting down on violent crime in pubs either, it you think about it, lots of stuff goes on in pubs that shouldn't, dealing, fencing, solicitation, ooh the list is endless. You can bet it won't for long though, and it'll be a lot harder to detect as well.

    Just because you can do a thing doesn't mean you should.

  8. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Down


    You migh almost get the feeling that's how some of the police like it.

    But that would be paranoid, would it not?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely

    By giving the police unmoderated power over others, the personality type that seeks out unmoderated power will be attracted to the police force.

    So the situation will get worse over time not better.

    The police officers who think they will not abuse this power will increasingly be working with officer who can and will abuse this power, and over time the number of misuses will increase.

  10. Michael Fremlins

    It's not just CCTV the police want in pubs

    It's unfettered police access without a warrant to the recordings of those CCTV cameras, without a warrant and on demand. Whether or not a crime has been committed or alleged...

    All licensed premises would thus become yet another part of the country where people are under surveillance.

  11. Hollerith

    an old saying has it...

    ... that police or only clever criminals. Or are only criminals with badges. I've met some decent plods, but even they carried themselves as if they were special powerful beings who stood in for the conscience of society. And most had very little imagination or toleration of difference.

  12. Paul

    Constable Savage

    Looks like we're back to "wearing a loud shirt in a built up area." Or perhaps it never went away.

  13. Maurice Shakeshaft

    bad money chases out good...

    This economic dictum translates very well into other branches of life when good people stand back and do nothing. Bad police chase out good. Bad policy chases out good.

    The whole idea of a civilised and/or democratic society is that people "improve". All that the policy of cameras in pubs seems, to me, to be doing is further pressurising hard won civil liberties in the name of Law and Order. I don't believe it will be effective in the long run as it will merely move what criminality there might be into an, as yet, unobserved area. I'd welcome a rationale explanation from the Councilors and the Police Authority as to why they let this happen.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    What Next ?

    Logical conclusion would be police who can dream up the law, arrest the suspect, decree his/her guilt or innocence in an on-the-spot 'trial' and then order and carry out sentence without all that costly and cumbersome nonsense of parliaments, trials, lawyers, judges etc etc. Like Judge Dredd.

    Woo-Hoo ! we're only a few small steps away from living out a B-grade sci-fi dystopia. Welcome to the UK.

  15. Adam Silver badge

    Not so much in ruralshire

    It's worth noting that most of these incidents relate to the Met and GMP. Those two forces tend to take the "assume the worst" approach (possibly because they've been burnt a few times), whereas other forces assume that the public as a whole is friendly.

    Unfortunately it's a vicious circle for the Met, you assume everyone is out to get you and treat them aggressively and you find that you're not welcome in any communities (and that includes the other emergency services - the Met are almost at war with London Fire and are non-too popular with the Surrey, Hants, and Thames Valley forces)

  16. Seán


    You are the problem not the Police. Your pathetic pre-emptive fear is disgusting and you deserve everything your weak imagination does to you. I hope the imaginary cops give you a bloody good fall down the steps.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Time will tell

    The day will soon arrive where there is significant civil unrest in this country. Policemen and women will be attacked and some even murdered by the very people they are charged to protect. They will receive no help from the populace because they have truly set themselves apart from it. They have been turned into a political force, an extension of Brown's corporate greed. They will lose control and then they will have to bring the army in. The revolution begins!

  18. Anonymous Coward

    What do you expect?

    People gave the banks a free ranee to regulate themselves and what happened? They abused the power and lost trillions and now we are in a global recession and we are sill bailing these guys out who should in reality be locked away for life for what they have done.

    People gave the government free ranee and look what they have done, they have given themselves powers that would put true communist countries and dictatorships to shame, they have abused there positions by making laws for there friends and "party donators", robbed from the public with expenses that would shame the most lavish CEO and then say that "they have followed all the rules on expenses" of course the rules where followed THEY MADE THE RULES.

    People gave the police power to control them, to break the law themselves and say "oops well never mind we are still doing it anyway" or "we are waiting for guidance on that but will still do in the mean time". They where given powers but no guidance that they must follow, responsibility to follow them or consequences for abuse of those powers.

    Why do i say the people gave them these things instead of saying they gave them to themselves? its because all of the above work for the people in some way but it has been the lazy(Cant be bothered to do anything about the above) ignorant (cant be bothered to learn about the above) or to cowardly(is to scared to change or confront the above in case "something" happens to them) that has allowed it to happen.

    Frankly unless the people get off there asses stop watching reality tv shows and start living in reality it will never end and no matter how much we few protest or realise what is happening unless the majority wake up and do something it will just get worse.

    And don't think that the next election will change anything both sides are as bad as each other.

    Like it has been proven in America the other side is the same as this side just under a different name and agenda.

    For true change someone who really wants to change the country and bring responsibility back to the land needs to be voted in but someone that radical will never be voted in as they are an unproven and unknown entity.

    P.s. it is currently NOT illegal to LIE when campaigning as if you brake any promises or even all of them all you have to say is that "migistating circumstances" made you brake them.


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    people who read this

    may also enjoy a FIT cameraman opining that journalists are worse than protesters:

  20. David

    Draconian stuff here

    Arrested for "walking on the cracks in the pavement" !!!!!!!!!

  21. ted frater

    the other side of policing

    My sympathies to those of you who live in urban areas,

    were in rural S UK,

    the nearest CCTV is 20 miles away.

    Our local police consist of 1 full time officer with 2 community pc's.

    we know them personally, by christian names.

    We ,with them run a rural watch scheme.

    They have given us their mobile nos!! so if we need them we can call direct.

    They know that if we need them they are 40mins away, and that we take it on ourselkves to provide our own security.

    If you havent seen what a tractor front loader will do to a car or van, spike it lift it and roll it .

    Any crim or crook takes a big risk trying us on.

    we live down a long track way at the end of a country lane.

    Nearest neibour some 2 miles away.

    No street lights, no mains leccy no mains water no refuse collection. Completely independent for everything. Just the way we like it. Our law man calls in for a cuppa at least a couple of times a year. were his eyes and ears out here.

    We work together to keet our part of the country crime free.

    Why cant the urban police do the same for the urban area?

    If they can do it here then they could do it there too.

  22. Jonathan McColl

    You're all dangerous ...

    ... freeloading pinko liberals! This is a free country! The police are there to protect the individual from the crowd and the crowd from the individual without fear or favour. All streets should have CCTV, and not the normal grainy unreadable kind but clear and crisp. All pubs too and shops that suffer from thievery. And all public places really so that if I pick my nose (which I don't ever) I'd be seen. In fact once the gearing-up to have sufficient watchers is done, cameras in houses too. A lot of domestic violence, abuse and cannabis-growing is done in 'private' homes. And then if public announcements needed to be made they could be fed straight to us even if at dinner or the loo! And they could have a friendly, strong, big-brother sort of character to front this. And we would be safe and free. Well, safe. Well, something.

  23. Richard Jukes

    In other news...

    "In other news the Police have announced they will be fitting small cameras to every bodies rectum to deter drug smuggling. It is hoped that the populace will quickly acclimatise itself to our new crime preventing measure and give it their whole hearted support."

  24. Anonymous Coward


    "I am a strong supporter of the Police. But there looks increasingly to be a need for additional oversight into the ways in which they interpret the law."

    It has NEVER been the remit of the police to "interpret" the law.

    That is all.

  25. William Boyle

    Police misuse of Power

    IMO, when the police, acting under the Color of Authority, misuse their power, the sanctions must be immediate, severe, and painful to not only the perpetrator, but also to their superiors. This could include major monetary damages payment to the abused. This is the ONLY way to make sure that the authorities keep their activities under control and appropriate to the situation. I used to love visiting England and lived and studied in London for a year in my youth, and a number of members of my family have lived there for decades and contributed materially to the life and culture of Britain. Given its current totalitarian climate, I will not visit, pass thru, or otherwise place myself under the control of the British authorities ever again. I know that my sister, formerly a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, is considering similar sanctions.

  26. JohnG

    I'm glad to live in Germany now

    If I call the police here concerning a burglary, theft from a vehicle or even a dispute with a neighbour - they will actually turn up and address the issue. They don't spend their time harassing motorists and despite being routinely armed, don't intimidate the popualtion at large. Most Germans I know don't have an especially high opinion of the police - they just see them as public officials doing their job. Oh - I can take photos here without fear of arrest or detention, despite being a foreigner.

    I just don't understand how the UK has managed to get so close to a police state.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For those who think rural cops are different...

    Cuffed for being suspiciously black:


  28. Paul

    The Drapers is a posh pub

    I've posted words to this effect before about this story, but they may be worth repeating. I used to drink in The Drapers quite frequently and it's quite a posh n. London gastropub - the sort of place where couples spread out the Sunday papers and people tuck in to nice nosh. So don't think there must be some rationale to where they choose to implement this policy. It looks like it's simply come up here because the pub's being refurbished. About a mile away you have a bunch of dodgy Arsenal pubs :-) whereas this one is in a quiet residential square.

  29. Reid Malenfant
    Thumb Down

    Hmm .... we seem to live in different worlds

    Little of the above I know nor recognise ...... but then I don't live or work in London (or the GMP for that matter).

    From my perspective @ Adam above had it about right ..... despite having so much in common, in reality there is often a world of difference between individual Forces, their policies and collective mind sets. No different really between any two business corporations.

    The fact is that I am a fierce critic of my local Police and have been known to get very upset and fall out with some of them - on not infrequent occasions! On occasion some of them have left me utterly frustrated and exasperated and I find myself having to hold back from knocking heads; but not for any of the reasons cited above.

    I am in fact currently in the process of making a formal complaint against an individual Officer, the Control Room staff befind them and a particular Force Policy they were acting upon. My family and I were immensely inconvenienced, put to unnecessary expense and then had insult added to injury .... but I know enough to realise that my battles are with the individuals concerned and not with the institution behind them .....

    Oh by the way, I'm also one of them ..... with over 3 decade's service no less, so I think I have a fair grasp of what actually happens in real life; in my Force at least. I've never been power-mad and I'm not remotely autocratic (somewhat left wing in fact) but I do have very strong principles and I am highly motivated (at least within my specialist role). Off duty I am seldom taken for a Police Officer, my appearance belies my ethnicity and I know only too well what discrimination feels like. I like people and I've always had a well developed social conscience but (sadly) unlike most members of the British public today, its never been in my nature to walk on by when someone's in trouble.

    What I don't like, however, is mindless yobbery, abusive drunks, thugs, thieves, rapists and bullies .... boy do I hate bullies. In my world, it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak and that's something I've always proudly striven to do. I have experienced a REAL Police State - a Fascist one that members of my family exiled themselves here to escape. Its something I feel very strongly about, so much so that I'd be prepared to fight to the death to prevent it occurring here; that may sound overly dramatic but such a defence was one of my reason's for joining.

    I am not THE Police, I am A policeman, an individual. Like you I work (or not as the case may be) within a collective of other individuals - and we are most definitely not all of one mind; there is no longer any particular character type or disposition attracted to the police, Officers are now more diverse than they've ever been before. I have discretion and I use it every day; I turn a blind eye to some indiscretions and enforce others. I could not possibly enforce every single one (there's not enough hours in the day) and I doubt very much that many people would like it if I did. For all concerned, 'Zero Tolerance' is a very harsh yoke indeed.

    The UK Police are a civilian body and quite independent of the Government and Military, to think otherwise is utter nonsense. We do not live in a Police State nor anything approaching one ...... you'd have to first replace the majority of us for that to come about. Yes I have been asked to do things I have disagreed with but nothing so extreme that it crossed my personal line in the sand; I do such things because that is my duty and part and parcel of what I signed up for but, like you, I have limits which I am not prepared to cross.

    In the course of my job I've been a victim of crime more than anyone else I've ever met; I've been injured more than most too, occasionally seriously; even my wife and children have been attacked. But I remain committed and care about doing the right thing - without fear nor favour. I will help anyone if I can; even those I've had reason to dislike (and believe me, that can be hard).

    Quite frankly, many of the above comments leave me puzzled, bemused in fact as its all so utterly alien to the world in which I exist. Regardless of whatever else you might believe to the contrary; I know, categorically, that whilst I and people like me exist there will never be a Police State in this country. You are of course free to remain in your own particular fantasy as, no doubt, many will accuse me of. But, unlike most armchair critics, I am compelled - on a daily basis - to stand up for what I believe in, regardless of risk or any personal cost involved ..... there, I've got it off my chest.

    Re the Law:

    Contrary to popular belief, the laws that the Police enforce are indeed subject to interpretation because, taken together, many can and do create ambiguity and contradiction. ..... this is one of the reasons why Trial Judges have continuously reinterpreted and modified existing laws by Stated Cases. You'll have to make a series of choices in order to get the matter to Trial in the first place and those choices will depend entirely upon your understanding (interpretation) of the legislation as recalled on the spot.

    In certain circumstances it is not at all unusual for different items of legislation to all potentially come into play at the same time; this can be complicated by the fact that the specific context can be nothing remotely like that which the Legislators originally anticipated. Laws frequently have a utility beyond that which the Legislators sought to address and, despite precise(ish) definitions, their choice of words can indeed impact significantly upon hitherto unforeseen matters.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @Greg Fleming

    You couldn't be more wrong.

    "A person is guilty of an offence if he—


    uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour"

    Enforce that law without "interpreting" what disorderly means..

    Interpreting the law is EXACTLY what all police do every day.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a healthy trend

    '..."two policemen stopped him on the grounds that he "looked over-confident"...'

    Oh, so now it's a crime for a citizen not to look humble and frightened enough when in the presence of the police? What did he do, look up from the ground? I hope he didn't smile - that would be insulting to the authorities.

    For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I suddenly recall an old Russian joke from the bygone Soviet era. On a Moscow tube train, the crowd is packed in tightly but everyone stands patiently in sullen silence. Suddenly a frightened looking little man in a shabby raincoat looks up at a big hulking fellow standing next to him, and asks obsequiously, "Excuse me, sir, but do you happen to work for the KGB?" The big man looks contemputously down at him and grunts a negative. Long silence. Eventually the little man asks again, "Pardon me for the impertinence, sir, but are you quite sure you don't work for the KGB?" "No!" replies the big guy. "I do NOT work for the KGB, and I'll trouble you to shut your mouth!" After a further very long silence, the little chap tries yet again. "Please sir, are you really really sure you don't work for the KGB?" "NO!" explodes the big man. "How many times do I have to tell you that I DO NOT WORK FOR THE KGB! In fact, I'm a journalist". "Oh," says the little fellow. "In that case, could you please stop standing on my foot?"

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    all accounts the BNP might be in charge of a few councils next election - up north, as thatcher means no one will vote conservative and blair/brown means no one will vote labour. And BNP promotes British jobs for british workers, hanging paedophiles...

    I'm planning on immigrating

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Eat all the CCTV cameras!

    It's a massive conspiracy!

    It's the end of privacy!

    It's just what Orwell predicted, only 30 years late!

    Eat all the CCTV cameras!!

    Before it's too late.

  34. David Clarke

    Practical Action

    The application of legislation based on Police interpretation of the law leads to a situation of laws themselves being made by the Police. The fact that this by-passes any parliamentry process and safeguards is a slippery slope and consequently very dangerous. Anybody who can appreciate this fact should be doing everything they can to bring it to wider attention. Mp's, media, open and public debate should be the order of the day, not just wittering on about it in columns such as this! One of the most (and disturbing) sinister aspects of the debate is that there does not appear to be any workable system of satisfactory re-dress when a citizen innocently falls foul of the law (as interpreted by the Police). I am not anti authority by any means and in this day and age certain legislation is required. Lets have this legislation as it was designed and not as interpreted by the police.


  35. Wayland Sothcott

    If a tree falls in a forest....

    and the CCTV camera does not have a mic, does it still make a sound.

    If a crime happens that's not on CCTV, was it really a crime?

    Well with so much crime backed by CCTV evidence it's hardly nessasary to go including a whole load of things that are not on CCTV.

    So if you want some help from the police you better make sure your whole life is available on CCTV. Insurance companies would like some police help too, so if you want insurance you will need to install CCTV.

  36. Guy Herbert

    Daily Mail?

    Actually the Daily Mail is a voice of reason restraint and civil liberty these days, so far have we come. The real problem is the calling of the mob in the red-top tabs, and the snake-oil response form government propaganda engines relayed by incurious journalists in all media, and relayed verbatim without demur by the broadcast media, which are both dominant and effectively state-controlled. The regulatory requirement for balance means lies are the equal of truth, and it's not what you say but how much you can say it that matters.

    The first step away from a police state would be to sack all the police and Home Office press officers and disolve the bogus representative organisations envoys and commissioners they set up with public money. The second would be to introduce the novel concept that when police break the law they are punished, and they cannot gain an advantage by doing so. Let's have a "fruit of the poisoned tree" rule here, so that an unlawful search cannot lead to a conviction.

  37. peter
    Thumb Down

    New Law?

    Don't worry. If it not the Law at the moment, it soon will be!

    Look at all the other 'is not a law against that' that inconvenienced the police who thought there was a law..

    1. Taking photos of the police is the first to spring to mind. Many people got threatened because police thought it was against the law....and now it is.

    2. Stopping motorists for no reason used to be a big no-no, which of course the police tred to get around, but now the police can stop you for any reason, or for that matter for no reason at all.

    3. Right to silence was a absolute right and annoyed the police no end, but now it can be 'inferred' that if you do keep silent you are as guilty as hell.

    Lets us not forget the vote wining stance of our Home Office minister who will push through any law just as long as it can garner some votes from our more gullable electorate.

  38. Andrew Duffin

    Guess what...

    "Police will in future consider all licensing requests on their individual merits."

    I bet they will. And oddly enough, they will come to the same conclusion in every case: they must ALL install CCTV.

    It's a coincidence!

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