Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Get Yourself a Record

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Get Yourself a Record

Article excerpt

Are you struggling to recall whether you protested outside the Nike store in central London way back in 2002? Maybe you're down the pub swapping anecdotes with activist friends, and you're a bit fuzzy about whether it was in 2005 that you were a legal observer at the arms fair protest, or 2007? There's no need to be uncertain any longer. Now, for only a tenner, you can get a handy list of all the protests you've been on--from the police.

During a trial last December, a member of the Kentish Town constabulary let slip that there exists a Metropolitan Police database "on which you can check what demonstration an individual has been on". I lost no time in writing to the Met, using the Data Protection Act 1998 to request any references to myself on the database, "Crimint"--short for "criminal intelligence" -and enclosing the requisite [pounds sterling]10 cheque to cover data processing costs.

In return, I received a page and three-quarters of data. It turns out that I have been spotted, and logged, by police on 13 occasions in the past seven years. Most of these sightings were at demonstrations, although there was an undated entry noting my "overt filming in the street outside LARC" (the London Action Resource Centre meeting space in Whitechapel, east London). Apparently, police photographers of the Forward Intelligence Team had snapped me arriving at public meetings, though the Met's information access manager confirmed that "no images of you are held on the Crimint database".

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The police had logged the make of my bicycle, and, when I identified myself as a journalist at the DSEi arms fair in 2007, they logged the number of my NUJ press card. …

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