>The Met are in the process of weeding data and images of protesters from the CRIMINT database that they are unable to justify retaining, according to the Home Office. In a response to parliamentary questions they state that CO11, the Public Order Branch are conducting a ‘manual review’ of photographs they have taken on demonstrations and political assemblies. This follows the Court of Appeal case of Andrew Wood, when it was found that the Met were not justified in retaining pictures of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade activist.
The criteria the police are using to ‘review’ entries on the database is unclear. Senior officers within CO11 have previously stated that intelligence can be held on people who have no criminal record, and who have done nothing unlawful. An awful lot seems to depend on the subjective judgement of FIT officers, and the estimated ‘threat’ from groups such as environmentalists and anti-militarists, or pro-Tamil or Palestinian demonstrators.
In an effort to find out just what data the police hold on them FITwatchers and others have applied under the Data Protection Act to see the information on file. The police have been slow to respond, and so far very little has come to light. The NUJ announced last week that they are making a formal complaint to the data commissioner about the failure of the public order unit to provide details of the data they hold on journalists.
It’ll be interesting to see how much information is eventually revealed – the police will undoubtedly try and hide behind the ‘national security’ and ‘prevention of crime’ exemptions to the Act. Additionally many protesters might justifiably be wary of making data requests, as it inevitably means providing a name and address and details of demonstrations attended. But potentially this is a useful way of getting a better picture of the scale of the information held, and any readers of this blog who would like more info or support for doing this should e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org