London police demand that new pub owner installs a CCTV as a licensing condition

From today's letters column in the Guardian:
I have recently agreed to take on a pub in a residential part of Islington. Under normal circumstances this would have simply involved the existing licence holder signing over the premises' licence to me. Unfortunately they had gone insolvent and disappeared so I applied for a new licence, which requires the approval of a number of organisations, including the police. I was stunned to find the police were prepared to approve, ie not fight, our licence on condition that we installed CCTV capturing the head and shoulders of everyone coming into the pub, to be made available to them upon request. There was no way that they could have imposed this on the previous licence holder.
Keep an eye on our growing surveillance culture (Thanks, Will!)

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  1. I found the next para even more chilling:

    As it happens the Islington Labour party headquarters is on the same street as the pub and, being a member, I contacted the MP Emily Thornberry to see if she really thinks she needs her photo taken when she pops in for a pint – needless to say I have not heard from her. I also spoke with a friend who is the licensing officer for another borough. Not only did he tell me that there was nothing I could do to overturn this, he also strongly advised me not to blot my copybook with the police by even questioning the request; I would not want them against me in the future, he said.

    Also, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, writes in: “Those who claim we live in a “surveillance society” need to remember there are two sides to this story. We need to ensure personal privacy at the same time as we protect the public. I will continue to strike a commonsense balance between the two.” I’d think that common sense would have told her that any pub that records who comes in and out and when would probably go out of business toot sweet, but I guess not.

  2. Perhaps he could theme the Pub and have everyone wear black hoodies… not only would this be a great prank, and an ‘up yours’ to the overseers, he could also make a few extra pounds on merchandise.

  3. They’ve been attempting to take peoples’ fingerprints in pubs in many places for a couple of years, now.

  4. they can make you install it, can they make you turn it on?

    As to Jacqui Smith and the other Nazguls; if a nation of sixty million can’t shift themselves to get one photograph of her having relations with a farm animal, well maybe the brighter ones should emigrate. Somewhere more liberal. Saudi Arabia?

  5. There’s a very simple way to manage that: find out if the pub nearest the headquarters of the local constabulary also has such a camera. Chances are they don’t. Make a big fuss at the hearing about that. Big enough that the spouses of the police in question will start asking them questions.

  6. A pub near where I live not only has a CCTV camera outside, but a protective cage around the camera.

    This does put me off going in; not because I don’t want my face photographed, but because it makes me suspect that it’s had problems with violent drinkers…

  7. Is this a request for a police controlled CCTV or for a proprietor owned CCTV? The two seem distinctly different.

    And what’s to keep the tape machine from going on the fritz?

  8. I’m not sure about this. BoingBoing and its readers (including me) get very exercised when people are prevented from taking pictures in public places – there have been many posts about this, and always on the side of the photographer, quite rightly. So why does photography become wrong when its the police or the government doing it? Personally I couldn’t give a monkey’s who knows I’m going to the pub, why would I? I would though object to the camera in my pub if I was the guvnor because like Beanolini, when I go to a pub as a punter and see cctv my first thought is “Uh-oh, grief” so I’d be worried about the cameras scaring people off.

  9. So why does photography become wrong when its the police or the government doing it?

    The gov’t should be transparent to the people, not vice versa.

  10. As an official Devil’s advocate I’d like to point out that it is probably in the best interest of the pub owner to have several internal cams to record what the employee’s are doing (giving away free drinks, stealing, drinking themselves…). Perhaps the government wants to discourage the over consumption of alcohol. In the USA alcohol related illness cost tax payers billions per year. And may cost the general economy 100 billion a year in lost productivity. I’m not calling for prohibition, but security cams are probably reasonable

  11. What the cops haven’t told you yet is that they will also insist that nobody wears a hat, headscarf etc etc in your pub, so the cctv shows the faces properly.
    As somebody who suffers from alopecia on the scalp this has put me off going to most pubs round my way.

  12. this is very common in larger planning and licensing where the police will insist on CCTV, (which I personally think is nonsense)

    the interesting point is not the insistence of the camera, it is the process for them getting the footage. can they just demand it or do they have to have reasonable cause or even a warrant.

  13. You could just comply.

    Place it so it captures the head and shoulders of every patron entering the pub…. From behind.

    You’ll need a separate exit and entrance, obviously…

    If you disagree with the spirit of a regulation, but can’t afford to fight it, then the best thing you can do is comply with the letter of the regulation, while subverting the spirit.

  14. I don’t see a problem with this

    Pubs happen to be places that for some reason pissed people decide to get into fights in. In particular the UK probably one of the worst places in the world for it.

    As an Ex barman I’ve managed to defuse situations by letting the drunken idiots know that they have been caught on camera and if they carry on the police will be easily able to identify them.

    Its a basic security measure

  15. @11: It’s a basic security measure, sure. But something that a pub owner ought to be able to decide for himself to install and to hand over the tape to the police should there be some need for it. I’ve got no beef with my local 7-11 surveilling me. Their call to put it in, my call to patronize.

    Of course, this is one of the problems with a near-comprehensive licensing regime for any business activity. Oh, sure, you have a right not to put up a CCTV, sayeth the authorities, but you also have a right not to be in business. And since we have the licenses (and the guns and the jails), you’ll do it our way.

  16. In Canada there is a growing trend of pubs and dance clubs swiping driver’s licences through an electronic device before they allow you admittance. This is done — ostensibly — to verify that you are legal drinking age and your ID is legit. On one occasion, I objected to this intrusion stating that I clearly look older than 18 and that showing my ID should be enough. I was refused admittance. Then the other night I saw a young woman getting her licence “swiped” in a convenience store as she attempted to buy cigarettes. I don’t know how many places I’m willing to get barred from before I simply surrender and allow them to implant the tracking chip — but Big Brother and/or his corporate cousin are really starting to worry me.

  17. Here in Utah right now they’re trying to make it so you have to get your I.D. scanned when you go in a bar.

  18. you know, there is a difference between a pub owner implementing camera security of his own accord on his own private property and the government forcing you to put one up for them to use…

    perhaps the inability to see this distinction is a reason why the uk’s citizens are allowing the growing surveillance state?

  19. MNKY, the difference there is that YOU get to choose to tell the police about your drunks, or not.

    In this case the pub owner must turn over footage of his patrons, whenever asked for, by the gov’t, as part of his licensing. Regardless of if you’ve had an ornery drunk in the house.

    See the difference?

  20. There are many benefits to having good security camera footage, but a far worthier goal is resisting oppressive authority. By the sound of it, the cops don’t have any legal right to demand a security camera on private property; if they did, they’d have told you as an “oh by the way.”

    Quite a bit hinges on whether this is actual extortion or just a very jackassy enforcing of the rules. Ask them for a copy of the law that requires the camera. If that fails, try to get the agreement, i.e. “put this camera up or we won’t approve your license” in writing. Not just “put this camera up,” they’ll be happy to do that, but the actual extortion part. Then take it to a lawyer and see what he thinks of your options.

    If as I strongly suspect they refuse to do even that, try to get them to pay for the camera you’ll never turn on.

  21. MDH – I don’t quite understand what you mean (I don’t work in pubs any more by the way)

    Many pubs and other venues have cameras on the door to ensure that no nonsense goes on either by the clientelle or the door staff who may or may not decide to get a bit involved with any doorsituations.

    The “On Request” part of the condition means that if there is any bother the police will check the CCTV to see who it was causing it. The Police are NOT going to randomly seize a pubs tapes and sit and watch them for 12 hours to see if something funny has being going on that saturday night- they are far too busy to waste resources on that kind of nonsense.

    This really isn’t a big deal – and the new landlord at this pub in islington must be pretty new at the game if he thinks its an unusual request as part of the licencing process.

  22. As an Ex barman I’ve managed to defuse situations by letting the drunken idiots know that they have been caught on camera and if they carry on the police will be easily able to identify them.

    You can achieve the same effect with the same words but no camera.

  23. MNKY – The “On Request” part of the condition means that if there is any bother the police will check the CCTV to see who it was causing it. The Police are NOT going to randomly seize a pubs tapes and sit and watch them for 12 hours to see if something funny has being going on that saturday night- they are far too busy to waste resources on that kind of nonsense.

    I think you are wrong about that.

    Best case scenario is what you describe, assuming everyone plays by the rules and can be trusted.

    But, if someone suspected of something is purported to have had a drink at your pub, the tapes will be asked for, to see if the suspects were there, and with whom. Worst case is “oh look, Barrister X was in there that same day with a woman who isn’t his wife (copy, paste to thumbdrive)”.

    Your patrons (You being a hypothetical pubkeeper) are your livelihood, and the decision about how much privacy your patrons have WHILE ON YOUR PROPERTY has just been made by the gov’t, and NOT by you, and it will cost you patrons, and therefore it will cost you livelihood.

    I trust the owners judgement about the camera because he is a private citizen with much to lose by abusing my trust. I do not trust the government, because I have much to lose when they abusing my trust.

    Maybe you’ve never been on the bad side of someone with authority who is having a bad day? I have.

  24. Are CCTVs required in GB for daycare facilites for children? Or nursing homes for the elderly? Just wondering. I have this idea that an ideal society is free from fear because everyone knows that no one can get away with any bad behavior because everyone is being watched. At least in public. It’s very 1984, of course, but it might be possible to do it without a bad Big Brother. Maybe a kindly old lady, like Mom? Now go about your buisness, deary.

  25. As was mentioned before: could always make it part of a theme.

    1. Customers arrive and press buzzer at front door.

    2. Charming hostess arrives to greet them with a bag full of black ski masks / halloween masks.

    3. Customers put on the masks and walk past the camera making rude gestures before returning masks to hostess and enjoying the pub.

  26. I have this idea that an ideal society is free from fear because everyone knows that no one can get away with any bad behavior because everyone is being watched. At least in public.sounds great, so long as I get to define “bad behavior” and “public.” But my definition isn’t your definition, and neither of us would like the government’s definition, which will include gems like “arguing about the definition of bad behavior is bad behavior.”

    The best way to correct excesses of authority is to ensure they never happen to begin with.

  27. I have this idea that an ideal society is free from fear because everyone knows that no one can get away with any bad behavior because everyone is being watched.

    ever read the Scarlet Letter?

  28. “The Police are NOT going to randomly seize a pubs tapes and sit and watch them for 12 hours to see if something funny has being going on that saturday night- they are far too busy to waste resources on that kind of nonsense.”
    And the gubmint isn’t going to keep records of all your phone calls, emails, trips abroad, credit card transactions, web activity…..

  29. “Maybe a kindly old lady, like Mom?”

    a baby’s Mom is a man’s nightmare. i do not wish to be sent to bed or put soap in my mouth for cursing. there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator. every dictator has an agenda. Your mom surely had one, making you a decent human being but i am not sure that it is safe to delegate parenting to the goverment. the goverment is not your mom. it’s not there to tell you that you have to brush your teeth it’s there to guarantee social order based on agreed upon rules known as a constitution.

    cctv culture is just trying to deflect attention from the real issues. “microcriminality” is pumped up as a nemesis for western civilization. see we got a drunkard and an albanian rapist, you are safe. meanwhile the mafia(the real one) is stronger than ever (unless you think that the boss will engage in bar fighting), your people are getting killed in overseas wars (without reason) and your savings are worth dung courtesy of corrupt bankers that make in a year what you would make in a lifetime.

    this “mom’s” name is Medea

  30. Jeff, the notion that we may all be safer when we can see what everyone else is doing is much different than the actuality of being surveiled by police and government agents who themselves are hidden from our view.

    Stick a camera into a patrol car, train one on the back door of your local police station, or follow a constable around his beat with a video cam and see what happens.

  31. @ #16

    That sucks, I would report each incident to the Privacy Commissioner. There are LAWS in Canada around handling personal private information.

    I don’t even buy money-orders anymore since Canada Post started recording who I am and who I’m sending the money order to. They never answered my inquiry about what their plan was if that info was stolen or lost. “It’s secure, don’t worry” was the best I got.

    Even this past weekend Canadian tire refused to return an item because I wouldn’t give my phone number.

    I feel like I’m going sane in a crazy world.

  32. The Unusual Suspect: I’m pretty sure that if you wanted to record everything around you with your cam-glasses (Charles Stross calls these people gargoyles in his book Accelerando), you could do so. I think that’s the way it’s going, so the police will soon learn that they are in fact being watched. Which is good. Our hightech civilization is about more data, not less. Everyone will want more, including the government. Everything comes with a price, so let’s see if this CCTV thing just falls away because it’s too expensive.

  33. This is reasonably common for new late night license applications, particularly in areas where there is regular trouble around kicking out time. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.

  34. I thought informing to the police was a grand old pub-owner tradition? Cops everywhere bribe and threaten booze-vendors for information and tips.

    Anyway, business opportunities: The Burka Bar, phony swipable IDs, rent-a-disguises 0r cheap false nose/glasses/beards sold by street vendors, electronic jammers, private bars where members only means no rules, …. anyone, anyone?

  35. Takuan:

    …big floppy hats …cyberpunk mirrorshades …infrared LED headbands (to create obscuring flare on video) …hired look-alikes …personal EMP emitters …home plastic surgery kits …next?

  36. MNKY, I think the issue might be, that we’re not sure what’s paranoia, or what’s Premonition based on our history. There is a discomfort at thinking someone may be looking over your shoulder, somehow taking advantage of you while you are in public. After all, why should tax payer money go toward an observation program that might make them uncomfortable? And yet, when people are asked what can be done to make cities safer they often say, “hire more police.” So, on one hand we don’t trust the police (because they too often act like thugs), but on the other hand many of us see the police as a deterrent to crime, as if their very presence on the street will deter people from committing crime. So, I think the logic leads to these CCTVs being defacto “eyes of the police”, who say that it’s not normal everyday people that have to care, just criminals. So, do we have more money for more police? Not around here we don’t. So, maybe CCTVs are a good compromise, extending one cop’s eyes into hundreds of places. Far more than if he had to walk or ride. I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about it any time soon. But I’ve been to London often enough to realize that it takes me no time at all to ignore the things. Just like I ignore 99% of the people I walk by. It might be different living there. I might then focus on something obvious like a CCTV system in the city to represent the general state of the British culture, which is in rapid shift mode in London. Is it too 1984? If this New Depression doesn’t push crime up, I don’t know what will.

  37. Christ, some people on here are paranoid…

    “The question is not whether I am paranoid, but whether I am paranoid enough.”

  38. Jeff, you’re right, I probably couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a Strossian gargoyle.

    But I fully expect that if I were arrested, my cam-glasses would no doubt become “accidentally” smashed in the course of my “resisting arrest”.

    And, do I recall correctly from Charlie’s book that cam-glasses transmitted their images to a secure remote server? That means that the police would then have to charge me with being a terrorist or hacker or kiddie pornographer in order to secure a warrant to access my secure server and “accidentally” smash that too.

  39. This is a complete over-reaction, and is no great shakes for anyone who lives in the UK.

    Violence is so rife, that any particular venue that has suffered from violence on the premises on a number of occasions, or are in an area that has, will be at least made to have CCTV as a condition of their license, and at the same time have properly trained door-staff and management capable of dealing with the the likely situations.

    This is not a privacy issue or anything similar, it is a safety issue for anyone involved.

    In most chain-establishments, you can’t even wear a hoody or a baseball cap, as the door-staff ask you to remove them so that you can be identified by CCTV.

    It is very much part of normal life in the UK.

    Also bear in mind that since November 2005 (I think) that the licensing powers reverted from the local police force to the local councils, so they can have completely different policies from what may seem to be the accepted norm.

    And bear in mind#2 that if you have a CCTV system then you’ll need to register with the Data Protection Registrar under the Data Protection Act to state that you are collecting audio and video date for the purposes of “the prevention and detection of crime”. Put up a CCTV system without being registered and you’ll be, as we so eloquently say in the UK, “bollocked”.

  40. #44

    Violence is not rife in the UK, I read that as ‘rare’ the first time. This is one of the most boringly safe countries on the planet.

    CCTV cameras are about as necessary as ‘community’ policemen, and about as effective.

  41. Piers W,

    Maybe stating that it was rife in the UK was an over-generalisation, I’ll admit to that, but it’s completely the norm up here in the north.

    Spend a nice Friday or Saturday night, or even better, coincide it with a premier league soccer match on a bank holiday weekend here in Grimsby, or adjoining Cleethorpes, and you will discover that it’s the norm for here.

    Pubs that are hot-spots have license reviews and are ordered to incorporate CCTV, additional door-staff, and staff training into their business, otherwise they are completely frowned upon by Northeast Lincolnshire Council, and in once case due to repeated incidents the pub was shut down.

    The merits of privacy can be debated upon, but the whole point is to let people enjoy themselves safely, remove the trouble causers and prevent a hot spot becoming a dead zone, and there’s no Big Brother bias here.

    I would posit that the request for CCTV for the particular pub in question may well be an ongoing policy of the current licensing council.

  42. Pair this with the attempt to make it an imprisonable offense to take photos of the police ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’ (= could be any situation they fancy) and you have a pretty sick picture.

    That Jacqui Smith is a real piece of work. I detest her.

  43. In most chain-establishments, you can’t even wear a hoody or a baseball cap, as the door-staff ask you to remove them so that you can be identified by CCTV.

    It’s QUITE a different matter when your insurance company makes you do it. They work for you.

  44. Amplifier, you’re right that we’ve confused the term “gargoyles’, but Stephenson’s gargoyles were something else, akin to Borg-like technofetishists.

    Stross’ story dealt with elderly people who sported video and sound recording equipment that backed up wirelessly to a remote server. If an elderly person were to be assaulted, the AI in the server would dial the police and forward to them the GPS coordinates of the victim along with full timestamped video of what what happening.

    Of course, the elderly folk used their new-found powers to march around recording and reporting on the merest infractions of youth.

  45. Did they say if you had to keep the camera focussed? DId they say you had to retain the images, and if so for how long?

    Request an official copy of the law they want you to enforce. Follow the LETTER of the law. If it’s not a law then you don’t have to follow it.

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