:: Friday, September 23, 2005 ::

Innocent in London

Seems that it's not just people with dark skin who are victims of police 'profiling', it's geeks as well. I'd better watch out.

Innocent in London, scary tale of tube journey leading to kafkaesque ordeal.

So, basically the Police have decided that wearing a rain jacket, carrying a rucksack with a laptop inside, looking down at the steps while going in a tube station and checking your phone for messages just tick too many checkmarks on their checklist and make you a terrorist suspect. How many other people are not only wrongly detained but wrongly arrested every week in similar circumstances as myself? And how many of them are also computer and telecoms enthusiasts that fit the Police's terrorist behavioural profile so well? I accept and understand spot checks can be useful, but profiling... this would be a joke if it didn't affect many ‘innocent bystanders’.

The officers must have failed to hear the Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair when he claimed ‘We are not in the business of stopping and searching people who fit a particular profile.’

Interestingly, while a police officer did state that my rain jacket ‘too warm for the season’, could it have been instead that the weather was too cold for the season? This is what the other Met, the Met Office had to say about the weather the day before: ‘London recorded its coldest July day for 25 years on the 27th when temperatures only reached 15.6 °C.’ At least I'm still alive and, over a month later, no longer under arrest.

The Police eventually decided to take No Further Action (NFA): ‘a decision not to proceed with a prosecution’. In a democratic country such as the UK, one would be forgiven for naively thinking that this is the end of the matter. Under the current laws the Police are not only entitled to keep my fingerprints and DNA samples, but apparently, according to my solicitor, they are also entitled to hold on to what they gathered during their investigation: notepads of the arresting officers, photographs, interviewing tapes and any other documents they collected and entered in the Police National Computer (PNC). (Also, at the time of this writing, I still have no letter stating that I'm effectively off the hook and I still haven't been given any of my possessions back.)

Aren't the Police supposed to keep tabs only on convicted criminals and individuals under investigation? So even though the Police consider me innocent, otherwise they would have had a duty to prosecute me, there will remain some mention (what exactly?) in the PNC and, if they fully share their information with Interpol, in other Police databases around the world as well. Isn't a state that keeps files on innocent persons a police state?

This gradual erosion of our fundamental liberties should be of concern to us all.

:: Alister | 4:38 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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