Birmingham & Black Country

Bags over Birmingham surveillance cameras 'farcical'

CCTV warning sign in Ladypool Road, Birmingham
Image caption A public consultation on the surveillance cameras will take place

Putting bags over cameras linked to counter terrorism in parts of Birmingham has been described as "farcical" by a privacy campaign group.

Big Brother Watch described the 218 cameras, put up in predominantly Muslim areas, as "excessive surveillance".

The Safer Birmingham Partnership (SBP) said it would not switch the cameras on until after a public consultation.

Plastic bags are being put over some of the overt cameras to reassure the public.

A number of the cameras installed are hidden.

The SBP said bags would not be placed over these because it did not want their locations revealed.

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, a group set up by the founders of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Without a doubt I think some of these (cameras) should be removed.

"It is a farcical situation sticking plastic bags over them."

Counter-terrorism fund

The cameras have mainly been installed in Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath under a scheme called Project Champion.

They were financed through a counter-terrorism fund, but the SBP has said they would be used to tackle all crime.

Speaking about the consultation, Mr Sharpe said: "My main hope is that it brings this issue of CCTV back into the mainstream and forces people in local, central government and police to justify spending this amount of money on CCTV.

"Big Brother Watch is fighting for every community to get this sort of consultation on whether they want cameras or not."

Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff, who raised the issue with the Safer Birmingham Partnership at a meeting earlier, said he felt local people should decide whether the cameras stay or not.

Corinna Ferguson, legal officer at human rights group Liberty, said: "Belated consultation of the communities targeted by Project Champion will give local people a much-needed platform to voice their absolute rejection of this discriminatory scheme."

She said the group was planning legal action on the use of the cameras.

"Although Project Champion has stalled to allow full public consultation to be carried out, Liberty intends to pursue a legal challenge to this ill-conceived and discriminatory initiative to ensure that the rights of residents are properly protected," she added.

A Home Office spokesman said the government was already looking at CCTV and ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) regulations, adding that Project Champion was started under the previous administration.

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