The British Transport Police (BTP) have CCTV cameras in the strip search rooms of all their custody suites in contradiction to their own CCTV in Custody Standard Operating Procedures and to the Home Office guidelines. I detailed these findings in the post British Transport Police pervert CCTV policy.
The BTP said that the contradiction with their own procedures does not exist 'as [the BTP CCTV in Custody Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)] is only a draft SOP and is still awaiting sign off'. The latest available draft is dated January 2010.
The BTP also claimed that by carrying out strip searches in rooms with CCTV cameras they are not in breach of the Home Office Safer Detention & Handling Guidelines (SDH) 'as long as the recording of the search is necessary and proportionate.'
To substantiate this claim, a BTP officer must decide before the start of the strip search whether a recording will be necessary and proportionate.I asked for the criteria they use to determine whether the CCTV recording of a strip search is necessary and proportionate. My questions was forwarded by the BTP Data Protection & Freedom of Information Researcher to Mark Leahy, Head of CCTV, British Transport Police, London. Here's the BTP's response:
The decision of whether to CCTV record strip searches is taken on a case by case basis. It is a decision that is taken by the individual Custody Sergeant and British Transport Police do not have a specific set of local guidelines that are followed. However, all decisions are carried out in accordance with PACE Code C and with the Safer Detention & Handling Guidelines.
(For relevant extracts from the SDH guidelines and PACE Code C, see the earlier British Transport Police pervert CCTV policy.)
I also asked for the relevant training material used to train BTP officers to enable them to determine whether the CCTV recording of a strip search is necessary and proportionate, what elements they must base their decision on, when they must make such decision and what kind of reporting of their decision they must make. The BTP do not hold any such training material.
Individual BTP officers are placed in an impossible situation, even if they try to act with respect to the privacy and the dignity of detainees being strip searched: CCTV cameras are installed in strip search rooms in all the BTP custody suites in contradiction to the BTP and the Home Office policies, and BTP Custody Sergeants are asked to decide on an ad hoc basis, without any training or guidelines, whether the actual recording of a strip search will be necessary and proportionate.