Whilst the Home Office Immigration storm in a teacup will no doubt occupy most of the media's attention, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister made a speech on crime reduction which shows his attitude to surveillance and privacy issues:
"To target these prolific offenders the police will deploy modern surveillance techniques and intensive intelligence gathering - including individually targeted CCTV - to collect evidence to support more successful prosecutions. This is especially important in neighbourhoods where prosecutions for anti-social behaviour have been hindered by witness intimidation"
How exactly is state sponsored CCTV individually targeted at the homes of as yet unconvicted, if not necessaarily innocent "nuisance neighbours" in any way compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights Article 8 ?
"Article 8 ? Right to respect for private and family life
1 Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2 There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
Instead of installing even more unregulated CCTV cameras, the existing ones should be licensed and regulated, with minimum maintenance standards and a consistent nationwide policy on CCTV Data Retention and Subject Access. There must also be criminal penalties for those who abuse such surveillance systems.
"One issue has already been raised with me by the Metropolitan Police. That is whether existing powers to intercept the phone calls of known criminals can be used to gather intelligence on these prolific offenders.
Currently, interception of communications or intrusive surveillance can be authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), against any offender who is likely to commit a serious offence. This is defined as an offence which, if committed by an individual over 21 with no previous convictions, is likely to attract a sentence of at least three years imprisonment.
The Met believe that the threshold is too high for intrusive surveillance and prevents them from carrying out such activity on people who may be prolific offenders but whose offending has not reached the level required by the Act.
We will review this situation with them and, if necessary, legislate to give the police the powers they need."
So the draconian provisions for Intrusive Surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act 2000 are now going to be applied to petty criminals as well.