Sun, 12 Jun 2011

Missing CCTV footage

Among the mass of documents collected by the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) during the investigation about my arrest, I noticed the following paragraph on a page titled 'Meeting at IPCC on 25 July 2006':

CCTV has gone missing or was not seized. Log shows that CCTV seized by BTP [British Transport Police] on 29/7[/2005]. [Detective Inspector] DI P is in the process of trying to establish whether this was OBO the Met.

I had tried in August 2005 – without success – to get a copy of the CCTV footage of my unlawful detention in Southward tube station, from the Metropolitan Police, the British Transport Police (BTP) and Transport for London. According to the paragraph above, there was a chance the footage was still held by the BTP, so last month I sent a subject access request to the Data Protection Registrar of the BTP.

A Data Protection Officer from its Information Standards Unit explained they didn't have it:

I am writing in response to your request for CCTV footage regarding an incident that took place on 28 July 2005.

I have made enquiries and have been informed that British Transport Police (BTP) do not hold the requested CCTV footage. The footage may have been requested by BTP from Transport for London but it would subsequently have been handed over to the Metropolitan Police as part of their investigation.

Unfortunately I do not have any information regarding a hand over of CCTV footage from MTP [sic, obviously BTP] to the Met Police and am only surmising a possible reason for why we do not hold the requested information.

Even though 'Observations conducted in the CCTV control room were very important in forming the suspicion that led to the stop and search and then arrest of Mr Mery', the IPCC-supervised investigation established that the Metropolitan police officer in charge failed to seize the CCTV footage. I replied explaining that a hand over never happened and hence couldn't be the reason they don't have the footage. I further asked for a confirmation of how and when the BTP stopped holding this CCTV footage, and the BTP retention period policy for CCTV footage. The Data Protection Officer replied:

As mentioned I could not locate any information regarding the holding and retention of the footage. The retention period for holding data is usually 6 years.

We are still within BTP's six year retention period for CCTV footage, but they don't have it or any record about where it might have gone.

Is this disappearance exceptional? Is it a common occurrence for CCTV footage that may expose police misstatements? Or is it routine? I do not hold this information.

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