Wednesday, 21 July 2010

'Anger over review into spy cameras in Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath'

Good article from the Birmingham Mail. You can read it here here though for some reason the original link no longer seems to work. Full story below.

'ANGER was mounting today after it was revealed that the police officer chosen to head an independent review into a highly controversial camera surveillance scheme in Birmingham, also sits on the board which designed and financed the project.

The Muslim community were outraged when the cameras, some of them covert, appeared in April without consultation, claiming they were being used to spy on them, though the police said they were to help fight general crime.

In a bid to reassure the public, police have switched off and placed bags over the cameras and they said they will carry out a full consultation process with residents about the future of the cameras.

But it has since emerged that the independent review into Project Champion will be carried out by the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton. She is also the Vice Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee, which provided the £3 million funds for the project.

Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob (Sparkbrook) claimed there was a clear “conflict of interest” and said the decision to appoint Thames Valley Police showed “a complete lack of judgement. We need a truly independent and genuinely impartial review into Project Champion. This is a step back."

Chief Con Thornton said: “I am entirely independent of West Midlands Police.

‘‘During the course of the review I will additionally be seeking independent advice concerning the conduct of the review.

“I will also be in regular contact with the community representatives of those touched by Project Champion, ensuring they are kept up to date with any developments and giving them an opportunity to judge the independent nature of the review for themselves.

“I hope that these actions will reassure the communities and people of Birmingham that the review into Project Champion will be independent and fair.”

But Steve Jolly, who has campaigned widely against the scheme, said: “Clearly this is going to be a whitewash.

‘‘Instructing the police to investigate the police doesn’t instil confidence.”