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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Is this the end of Forward Intelligence?

The Met today lost a key legal case in the Court of Appeal over the retention of photographs taken of protesters by Forward Intelligence Teams.

Andrew Wood, a campaigner for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, took a civil case against the Met in 2005 after he had been followed and photographed by FIT officers. The FIT team harassed him after he attended a shareholders meeting of Reed Elsevier, the company which then hosted the DSEi arms fair in London’s Excel centre.

In the initial hearing at the High Court, lawyers for the Met maintained that they did not retain the photographs for further use. “This is not about some secret national database” they insisted. Wood lost the case.

After that, FITwatch mounted a number of legal defences to obstruction charges, based on the fact that FIT teams collected and collated data onto a central system which breached privacy rights. Initially FIT officers giving evidence denied this. Then back in December, PC Dan Collins blew the lid off the database racket. During the trial of three people using banners to block the cameras of FIT teams, he was unusually and remarkably honest. Yes, he said, they did enter details of individual protesters into a database. Thousands of them.

Liberty, who had taken Wood’s case, then accused the Met of misleading the court. They appealed the decision on Wood to the Court of Appeal.

Todays judgement calls for the police to destroy the photographs taken of Mr Wood, and casts doubt on their ability to continue to collect data on people when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

Presumably, this means their practice of sitting outside meetings taking photographs of those attending will now be recognised as unlawful. It also has implications for the collection of data in any situation where no criminal offences are taking place.

It is certainly good news for the nine FITwatch activists who are awaiting trial for obstructing police cameras, some of whom have been on bail for a over a year. It will make it much more difficult for the police to maintain that they were acting lawfully when taking photographs of a public meeting and a perfectly peaceful protest!

So it this the end of the FIT? I suspect that they will attempt to weasel their way out of this ruling in some way or another. Perhaps they will just go back to pretending that they don’t keep any of the images. Or maybe they will insist they only photograph anarchists and ‘extremists’, who (of course) go around committing offences all the time anyway. Who knows?

But coming on top of everything else – FITwatchers making their life bloody difficult; two of their ‘top boys’ under investigation in connection with the death of Ian Tomlinson; criticism from the NUJ for attacking and harassing working journalists – this must surely hurt.

It’s about time you hung up the FIT jackets, boys, and got yourself a proper job.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

From the BBC

The judgement does not ban specialist police cameramen and photographers, known as Forward Intelligence Teams, but it does say the long-term retention of their pictures must be justified on a case-by-case basis.

So that answers your question. The other point is that this applies only to those never convicted.

scunnert said...

Having worked for government departments for most of my life I know how they operate when it comes to the law. It's all a matter of interpretation until a judge rules otherwise then that ruling becomes subject to interpretation.

In the end they'll do what they want regardless of what the law says.

Anonymous said...

Well done to you and long may you continue to confound these bastards.

Hopefully someone in Government will eventually get these Stasi tossers under control.

Anonymous said...

Well done to FitWatch and Liberty. At least someone is standing up for our basic freedoms. Sadly the general public don’t give a toss, and that plays into the hands of the cops...

Anonymous said...

What gives you the right to write of the 'general public.' Is it because 'they' don't care about the same things as you, are therefore wrong and their opinion less valid? They probably want the cops out there with cameras, they probably hope they get the tykes on film who smash up the bank/shop/street/police car that will have to be repaired at the expense of the insurance payers and tax payers.

id said...

It'll be interesting to see whether this ruling can be extended to require a review (and hence, a large pruning) of the existing FIT database - public (and more importantly, mainstream press) awareness of civil liberties issues around policing is running fairly high at present.

Anonymous said...

if thats you're idea of interesting you should get out more!

Denny said...

If that's your idea of how to spell 'your', you should get a dictionary.

Look up 'punctuation' while you're at it.

Anonymous said...

You understood what i meant, i find the concept of laws in language, a constantly evolving entity to be constrictive and another way in which the nanny state tries to force us to conform.

Anonymous said...

'you're' is an abbreviation for 'you are', as opposed to 'your', which is a possessive pronoun, eg 'your record player'. it's not something prescribed by the state, there are laws which supersede those of parliament you know!

Anonymous said...

Don't oppress me with your language rules you punctuation facist.

Anonymous said...

hjsdhjkbasdjk jkhjdh ja ------ bdjksdjk ja dsh djh ----- bjsd bkab jk d ----- nd jnsD JN DJN ---- --- JD JQK DJBD JB D NJSNDJK AD

nacncc

xx

Anonymous said...

anonymous 0602

that would be 'punctuation fascist

Anonymous said...

word facist

scunnert said...

Anonymous at 23 May 2009 06:02

I've always found the possessive boring and trite - the subjunctive is a far more interesting case. If I were you I'd pay more attention to grammar as it is a powerful tool in the polemicists arsenal.

Martin said...

Why don't Fit Watchers wear full burquas?

Anonymous said...

why shoud any conform to a fascist dictionary? Is it the law? Eg millions of northerners don't know, nd cannot tell that 'one' rhymes with 'fun' (not 'gone'). cut the crap out'v orwellian mest up apelling/ orwellian dublspeak like 'forward intelligence' .

Mara Schapiro said...

Hello FIT watch -
My name is Mara Schapiro and I am a student at Nottingham Trent University completing my Masters degree. I am currenty working on my dissertation, which is about direct action activism. I was wondering if you could refer me to ANY activists who would be willing to talk to me about their experiences - including the obstacles they have had to face, such as police abuse.

I fully understand that some of the issues related to protest canbe sensitive and delicate. Therefore, I can offer COMPLETE ANONYMITY to anyone who would speak to me about my dissertation. Please help!

If anyone can help me with this, please contact me on my email --
mara.schapiro@live.co.uk

Thanks in advance! I'm desperate and really do need your help!

Sincerely, Mara

Mac said...

It seems obvious to me that any police officer not displaying their number should be subject to disciplinary measures. Why isn't this happening and how can the practice of removing numbers be stopped?

Anonymous said...

saw it in the guardian and absolutely delighted that there is a group fighting back against these identity thugs and their intimidatory methods. you lot must really piss Plod off and I for one applaud your work. Well done!

The Ungoliant

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