Home Office appoints Antony Porter as new Surveillance Camera Commissioner

home-officeThe Home Office has announced this morning that the new Surveillance Camera Commissioner is to be Antony Porter. His appointment is for three years starting from 10 March 2014.

  • Developing story: we will update during the course of today

Porter is currently vice president head of physical security intelligence at Barclays Bank and previously was in the police for 20 years where he rose to the rank of assistant chief constable at Greater Manchester Police and was deputy senior national coordinator for counter terrorism until October 2012.

Other positions he held include head of North West counter terrorism unit and head of Special Branch, GMP.

The position of SCC was previously held by Andrew Rennison.

In the written statement, Lord Taylor of Holbeach praised Rennison for his work. “I should like to record the Government’s appreciation of Mr Rennison’s contribution in laying the foundations for regulation of surveillance camera systems,” he said.

Rennison was the first person appointed as SCC in September 2012, a post which he held concurrently with his position as Forensic Science Regulator.

His appointment was not a complete surprise because he had previously been the interim commissioner since 2009.

Rennison came into office promising to raise the public’s awareness of how CCTV was being used in the public space, but he quickly ran into controversy with comments he made to The Independent newspaper.

In the article, Rennison is quoted as saying that cameras capable of tracking and identifying people from half a mile away are turning Britain into a Big Brother Society which would lead to a backlash from the public against CCTV.

However, the BSIA’s Alex Carmichael shot back with a letter to the editor of The Independent asserting that “CCTV is vital to the protection of our society”.

He wrote: “I was therefore disappointed to read Mr Rennison’s statements questioning “the effectiveness of CCTV cameras in detecting crime”, an assertion which is countered by the fact that over 3,000 arrests were made as a direct result of CCTV technology following last year’s August riots, in addition to the pivotal role it also played in the investigation of the 7/7 bombings.”

Rennison later said that his comments to The Independent had been overhyped but he still maintained the basic thrust of his argument.

During his time as Commissioner, Rennison has signed a cooperation pact with the Information Commissioner, produced a CCTV code of practice and hosted a conference in London to discuss the code.

He has also coined the term “surveillance by consent”, based on the concept of policing by consent developed by Sir Robert Peel in the 19th century. Surveillance by consent underpins the 12 principles of the CCTV code of practice.

The role of the Commissioner is best summarised on the Home Office website which states:

The role of the surveillance camera commissioner is to

  • encourage compliance with the surveillance camera code of practice
  • review how the code is working
  • provide advice to ministers on whether or not the code needs amending.

The commissioner has no enforcement or inspection powers and works with relevant authorities to make them aware of their duty to have regard to the code. The code is not applicable to domestic use in private households. The commissioner also must consider how best to encourage voluntary adoption of the code by other operators of surveillance camera systems What the commissioner is responsible for:

  • providing advice on the effective, appropriate, proportionate and transparent use of surveillance camera systems
  • reviewing how the code is working and if necessary add others to the list of authorities who must have due regard to the code
  • providing advice on operational and technical standards
  • encouraging voluntary compliance with the code

What the commissioner isn’t responsible for:

  • enforcing the code
  • inspecting CCTV operators to check they are complying with the code
  • providing advice with regard to covert surveillance
  • providing advice with regard to domestic CCTV systems

More to follow.

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