Friday 19 February 2010

Someone to watch over me (or you, or us, or them)

I can sleep well in my bed tonight in the complete assurance that if various public authorities suspect that I might be at risk from someone else’s ulterior motives, they may be exercising their statutory powers to put them under some type of surveillance.

I’m not referring here to techniques which require someone to plant a bug in someone’s home or their car. That sort of stuff is called “intrusive surveillance”, which I’m sure is very carefully controlled. No, I’m talking about a much more mundane sort of surveillance – say following someone in the street, or over hearing their conversations in the pub (or as they are exercising their dogs on the beach). This sort of stuff is called “directed surveillance”. And I'm confident that it's just as well controlled.

And is it just the police who need these powers? Actually no, as a lot of investigators from other public authorities also need to exercise them as they try their hardest to keep the bad guys at bay. The website has recently (and very helpfully) reminded its readers just who these authorities are. I thought you might be interested. It’s all perfectly lawful – and it’s all perfectly necessary.

So if, as in the final of that old and much loved BBC TV programme The Generation Game, you were asked the following question, which was about memorising a list of authorities who might just be looking out for you, how many from the following list would stick in your brain as you walked around the set to recount them to the compere?

Right now, pay attention. Nice to see you surveilled, to see you surveilled, nice. Investigators from the following authorities are all able, when necessary (and proportionate), to help keep the bad guys at bay. Just how many authorities can you remember from this list? Take a nice deep breath, and concentrate:

• The 43 police forces of England and Wales, the Scottish police forces, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, British Transport Police, the MOD police, and the military police forces
• The Civil Nuclear Constabulary
• The Force comprising the special constables appointed under s 79 of the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847 on the nomination of the Dover Harbour Board
• The Force comprising the constables appointed under art 3 of the Mersey Docks and Harbour (Police) Order 1975 (SI 1975/1224)
• The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)
• The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency
• The Serious Fraud Office
• The Office of the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland
• MI5, MI6, and GCHQ
• The Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force
• The Commissioners for Revenue and Customs
• Any local, county, or district council in England, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a local authority, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, and any county council or county borough council in Wales
• Any fire authority within the meaning of the Fire Services Act 1947 (read with para 2 of Schedule 11 to the Local Government Act 1985)
• The Department of Communities and Local Government
• The Ministry of Defence
• The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
• The Department of Health
• The Home Office
• The Ministry of Justice
• The Northern Ireland Office
• The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
• The Department for Transport
• Department for Work and Pensions
• The National Assembly for Wales
• A universal service provider (within the meaning of the Postal Services Act 2000) acting in connection with the provision of a universal postal service (within the meaning of that Act)
• The Postal Services Commission
• The Charity Commission
• The Environment Agency
• The Financial Services Authority
• The Food Standards Agency
• The Gambling Commission
• The Office of Fair Trading
• The Gangmasters Licensing Authority
• The Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection
• The Office of Communications
• The Health and Safety Executive
• A Special Health Authority established under s 28 of the National Health Service Act 2006 or s 22 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006
• Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills
• The Information Commissioner
• The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain
• The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Northern Ireland)
• The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (Northern Ireland)
• The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
• The Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland)
• Any district council (within the meaning of s 44 of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954)
• The Department of Regional Development (Northern Ireland)
• The Department of Social Development (Northern Ireland)
• The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
• The Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (Northern Ireland)
• The Fisheries Conservancy Board for Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland)
• A Health and Social Services trust established under art 10 of the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 (SI 1991/194 (NI 1))
• A Health and Social Services Board established under art 16 of the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 (SI 1972/1265 (NI 14))
• The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland
• The Northern Ireland Central Services Agency for the Health and Social Services
• The Fire Authority for Northern Ireland
• The Northern Ireland Housing Executive

I couldn't remember half of them. How many could you recall?