02 August 2010

El Pueblo Unido...

Videos are proving to be a key element in ensuring that policing is fair and honest, as recent events in the UK have demonstrated. But there's a subtlety here that I hadn't realised until reading this:

More worrying is the way in which CCTV is being used by the police. Demonstrator Jake Smith was charged with two counts of violent disorder. These charges were later dropped when Smith's solicitor, Matt Foot, viewed the original CCTV footage and discovered that the police video had been edited to show events out of sequence, at one point implying another man was Smith while omitting footage showing Smith being assaulted by a police officer without provocation.

Considering the potential for abuse of power, the control that the police have had over the use of CCTV is frightening. Foot warns, "We should be both curious and suspicious about how the police use CCTV footage in these cases."

Foot's concern extends to how police have dictated the use of their edited material. Solicitors representing the protesters were told to sign an undertaking by the Met that prevented them sharing their police videos with anyone but their client. This stopped defence solicitors working together to establish a wider picture of the protests and their context. This worked hand in hand with the decision to charge all the protesters individually rather than collectively.

The first point is obvious enough: those charged with offences need to be able to see the *full* video footage that includes the parts used by the police. But the second is just as important: in order to obtain a full, rounded picture of what *really* happened - or a good approximation thereto - people must be able to pool video resources. Both of these need to be enshrined as explicit rights if we are to nip in the bud the tendency for the Boys in Blue to get selective in their editing, and for true justice to be done.

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Crosbie Fitch said...

Ah, so that's why police hate being photographed and videocammed so much - they have been trained to expect such material to be distorted to incriminate them.

Fear to be done by as you would do.

Glyn Moody said...

@Crosbie: ah, could well be...