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  • CCTV footage of July 7 bombers to be released

    Posted on April 4th, 2009 admin No comments
    Suicide bombers caught on CCTV

    Suicide bombers caught on CCTV

    Previously unseen CCTV footage of the July 7 London suicide bombers should be released into the public domain against the wishes of the Metropolitan Police force.

    That is the decision of the Information Commissioner who ruled in favour of the Press Association who had appealed the capital’s police force’s decision to try to keep the images secret.

    Officials for the Met said the previously unseen images should not be released as they were covered by S.30 (Investigations) and S.38 (Health and Safety).

    The Commissioner ruled that S.30 was engaged but that the public interest in disclosure outweighed the maintenance of the exemption. The Met’s argument that S.38 protected the images from disclosure was thrown out by the Commissioner who stated that it did not apply.


    Section 30

    The Commissioner accepted the argument that the exemption was engaged and took particular note of the fact the investigation (not into the actual bombing but related events) was still ongoing. It was also accepted there was a public interest in protecting information, which is often acquired in confidence.

    Considering the issues in favour of disclosure the Commissioner said the images from the CCTV were similar to those already in the public domain, and descriptions of the unseen images were contained in a Home Office report. Also weighing in favour of disclosure were the fact a decision had been taken not to have a full public inquiry, where presumably the images would have become available, and disclosure would help add to the body of evidence in the public domain that would help dispel conspiracy theories or suspicions of ‘spin’ or ‘cover up’.

    Summing up the Commissioner said: “…the similarity of the information available in the public domain at the time of the request to that in question here, along with the absence of public interest factors highlighted by the public authority relating to the content of the specific CCTV footage in question here, leads the Commissioner to conclude that the balance of public interest favours disclosure.”

    Section 38

    The Police claimed that the release of the images could endanger the mental health of surviving victims and relatives of people who died in the attacks. But the Commissioner said the images were ‘benign’ and that the Met had not produced any evidence that their release would or would be likely to lead to the endangerment of health. It was ruled that the exemption was not engaged.


    The Commissioner ruled the footage from all seven CCTV cameras should be released although ordered that the faces of people other than the suicide bombers should first be obscured or pixellated to effectively redact them so as to abide by S.40 (Personal Information) of the Act.

    Click (here) for a full copy of the Commissioner’s ruling and (here) for a report of the issue by the BBC.

    CCTV camera

    CCTV camera

    Editor’s Note: This decision throws up a number of very interesting points. However, how much impact the rulings will have on other decisions is probably slight as some of the major points in this case turn on its highly unusual nature.


    Would the images have been released if they were bombers who were caught and imprisoned rather than suicide bombers? Probably not.

    Would the images have been released if it wasn’t for the fact they were in the words of the Commissioner ‘benign’? Probably not.

    Would the images have been released if the Government had been more open and ordered a full public inquiry? Probably not.

    Would the images have been released if the Met had not already released similar footage into the public domain? Possibly not.

    One of the Met’s arguments was that if these CCTV images were released then all such images would have to be made public. A good point and I have asked the question (here) to test the theory.

    Also an interesting point is made about pixellating out the details of people not directly involved in the incident - I’ve had a similar request refused on the basis that it would be too complicated and take too much time.

    What do you make of this decision? Please post your comments.

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