Smile please………you have been caught on camera.

I read with interest that the Met Police have breached two persons Human rights after two persons took them to the High Court for being found ‘Not Guilty’ for offences, but the Met kept their photographs,  If the Met do not appeal this will have a knock on effect with all forces.

The two unnamed persons, a female of 60 for assaulting a CSO five years ago and male of 12 after an allegation of rape three years ago.  They had no action taken against them but the photos were kept.  Unless the policy is revised within months, or there is a successful appeal, police are very likely to have to destroy “photographs of anyone who is innocent of any crime”, said the Equality and Human Rights Council (EHRC), which had intervened in the case.

In a written judgment, Lord Justice Richards said the challenge was another in a line of cases dealing with the retention of data by the police “after a person has been arrested on suspicion of an offence but has subsequently not been proceeded against, or has been charged and acquitted”.

The Police have already been told that they cannot hold on to a persons DNA or fingerprints so what is the difference with the photos?  Some will say that photographs are important to know what a person looks like, and although they were not prosecuted they were still in a position where they were brought in to the police station because of an allegation of an offence, therefore it should be the right thing to do. Also from an intelligence point of view, after all, there would still be a record on the PNC, so why not a photograph as well for future reference? What if something is captured on CCTV and we know that they have been in custody before, but not charged, just how would be recognise them?  We do use papers and the websites to put up photos for alleged suspects, so what is the problem with keeping them on file at the police station?  If you have done nothing wrong then what do you have anything to worry about?

The Met stated that they should be able to keep them ‘to prevent crime and disorder’.  The judge disagreed.  What do we think?  Well the judge did say that it was right that we should keep information of persons so we have an accurate record of a person, so why not a photo as well?  How are we supposed to recognised someone as being known unless the intelligence includes a photograph?

Theresa May, for all her use, is going to look at the ruling, as this will of course have an affect to all forces.

John Wadham, general counsel at the EHRC, said: “Without the protection of our human right to a private life, the police would be able to hold on to your DNA, fingerprints and photographs even if you had done nothing wrong. There is no good reason why the police should hold on to information about people who have not committed any crime.”However, we recognise the importance of retaining the identification of people who have been charged with, or convicted of, offences. But it is essential that the police use these powers appropriately, proportionately and fairly.”

You know as well as I do, that just because a person hasn’t been charged or found guilty, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not guilty of an offence. Often it will be due to a technicality that they are found not guilty, so what about those people?  Just because the lawyers were astute enough to realise they could get their client off, does that mean that they are not actually actively involved in crime?

James Welch, legal director for Liberty, said: “Until now the police have felt entitled to keep hold of photographs of those arrested but never convicted of any offence for far too long. The court has rightly recognised the implications for people’s privacy and insisted that this disproportionate policy be tightened.”  I don’t think that the police have felt ‘entitled’, I think it is because we have felt that in the interest of our innocent victims, the use of the photographs have been of great use.  For example, say a male has been committing rapes, and he has been let off with a technicality, but does it again, if he didn’t have his photograph on file but did it again just how would we be able to a) recognise him for intelligence purposes and b) put together a photo board for victims to pick him out as the offender?  If the photo has to be destroyed if not convicted for an offence, does that mean all photos that have been taken if they are prolific, or just the one they weren’t charged with?

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are urgently examining the implications of the ruling and its potential impact on police operations. This will guide what further action may be appropriate.”

What is appropriate is to keep photos of those who are convicted of an offence, and keep the photographs where they have been NFA’d so that appropriate intelligence can be shared with different forces and other agencies.  What isn’t appropriate is to destroy photographs of persons who have been arrested who we know were present at the offence, or have aided and abetted or committed a crime.  OK, if the person is truly 100% not guilty then perhaps they may have a point, but my suggestion is that this very rarely happens, and if a person comes in to police custody it is because they have been a part of something that has brought them to our attention in the first place, and therefore the photographs should be kept.

Can they truly say that someone who has their photographs taken in custody that they are completely innocent?  I think that they need to think that these would be a minority and with the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which have millions of photos of people, what really is the problem with having a photo on the system.  After all, we are there to help our community to keep them safe from harm after all, we are not doing it because we ‘just can’.

2 Responses to “Smile please………you have been caught on camera.”
  1. 334Boss says:

    I’m old school, if you want my piccy, fine (it’s on file for my F1250 anyway) if you want my prints fine, if you want my DNA fine. But then, I keep to the rules, (ok not always 30!) So what have I got to hide. If my data helps to speed up one worthless scroat doing some time as a guest of HM, do you want colour or B&W?

    • Colour would be good please! LOL
      I agree. As an officer I have willingly given them my DNA, fingerprints and my photograph.
      I agree, if you have done nothing wrong then what is the problem. I see a photograph as a way of keeping a record of someone who has been brought in to custody believed to have committed an offence, and okay, if they leave with an NFA, then that means that they have nothing to worry about, but at least it gives us a line of intelligence if/when they are brought in again.
      There are cameras everywhere, so even if they are destroyed then there will be CCTV stills anyhow.
      Like I said, if you have not done anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about!

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