Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Barnet jumps the shark

If the MetPro/Barnet council saga were a soap opera, last night it jumped the shark.

For a while Barnet council denied that MetPro had ever taken film of residents at council meetings. This flew in the face of several statements by Mr Sharkey, one of the company's directors. Then on Tuesday evening the Times series posted this story: Barnet Council says secret footage taken by MetPro security firm of residents has been destroyed:
A statement from the council said: “At no point has the council ever authorised security staff carrying lapel cameras.

“As soon as we realised MetPro had filmed on our premises without authorisation we asked them to send in their footage and destroyed it.”
Do I feel reassured? Does any Barnet resident?

MetPro Rapid Response have had a contract with the council since 2006. When did they start filming? Did Barnet never realise? Don't they have a duty to ensure contractors comply with legislation - has MetPro breached data protection legislation? Does Barnet even know?

Barnet's "reassurance" is so half-baked it only serves to alarm me more. I imagine the conversation with the journalist going something like this:
Hello, hello, is that the Times series. Uh, yeah, I thought I'd just give you a quick bell. You know that filming business? Yeah, well, it turns out the bloggers were right after all, but there's no need to worry because MetPro stuck all the film/audio/photographs in a brown envelope and sent it over to NLBP (on a motorbike, perhaps). Yeah, we put it in the shredder... (Places hand over receiver but muffled voice is still audible:) Joe, what did you do with that load of film that arrived earlier? What do you mean you can't find it... you'd better bloody find it, and quick... etc.
Oh, my goodness!

Can I just point out that Barnet council should be thanking Barnet's bloggers for finding out for them:
(1) that MetPro has been filming residents without their or, apparently, the council's knowledge;
(2) MetPro was going to go bust (if Barnet council knew this before the Barnet bloggers did I will eat a pair of Brian Coleman's underpants).

I would strongly urge any Barnet resident who would like to sign the call for an inquiry into the relationship between MetPro and Barnet council to email me c/o


Mr Mustard said...

S77 Freedom of Information Act

Offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure.

(a)a request for information has been made to a public authority, and.
(b)under section 1 of this Act or section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, the applicant would have been entitled (subject to payment of any fee) to communication of any information in accordance with that section,.
any person to whom this subsection applies is guilty of an offence if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.

Precipitate destruction in my view. Better to have safely stored the data which would have shown the reasonable behaviour of residents at the Town Hall. Time for a report to the ICO me thinks.

Mr Mustard said...

Reminds me of Enron this destruction of data.

Mrs Angry said...

Mr Mustard, you have made the point I was going to make: the ICO are already aware of this matter and this move is only going to make things far more serious for Barnet.

baarnett said...

Claerly the Authority was the data holder at the time it "destroyed" it.

So it will presumably have detailed records of its destruction.

Do we know if it was on tape (unlikely) or solid-state, like bubble memory. Has teh media been reused? Otherwise, only the titles of the data may have been destroyed, and it could be recovered.

And did the black-shirts COPY the data to the Council, or send the originals?

baarnett said...

The Evening Standard has the story today.

David Duff said...

Jolly good show, Vicki, give 'em one for me, er, but, weren't you and your comrades agitating to be allowed to film inside council premises just the other week? And would you ensure that everyone present had given their permission? The words 'sauce', 'goose' and 'gander' jump, or waddle, into my mind.

Citizen Barnet said...

Good point you raise, McDuff.

When we spoke to Bindmans about our right to film inside the council meeting they told us that we must promise not to film the public, only the meeting itself. Otherwise data protection issues arise. So we promised to abide by that...

Now, how about MetPro and Barnet council?!

There is no foul/fowl play on our side, you old goose!

David Duff said...

Ah, but could you guarantee the good behaviour of all your, er, excitable comrades, I wonder? And what about the people whose attention would be distracted by your filming activities? Are they not entitled to view a meeting undisturbed?

As to the main matter, aim your searchlight and then switch to full power. I don't care whether they're Tories or Trots, secrecy should be minimal at any level of government.

baarnett said...

DD: there's surely no real distraction from someone videoing a committee. More comes from Brian Coleman playing with his Blackberry, surely.

David Duff said...

I would be uncomfortable watching proceedings whilst some stranger was filming - wouldn't you? How can you watch one and keep an eye on the other? And why should you have to?

Anonymous said...

Duffers, you miss the point. They said filming by anyone was banned and then did it on the sly, without telling anyone. if they'd let us film, you would have a point, but to do it on the sly like this is dead sneaky, which is why we have the hump

Love Nick Walkleys brother

baarnett said...

DD: If someone is merely videoing the committee, and never the audience (which suggests sitting near the front), what is wrong with that?

But anyway, they will not "allow" AUDIO recordings either. You would not be uncomfortable with that, surely?