Inquiry call over York CCTV ‘security lapse’

CCTV cameras were not watched for four hours during a major police event in York

CCTV cameras were not watched for four hours during a major police event in York

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YORK’S CCTV network was left unmanned for hours on the day of a major event attended by the Home Secretary and 40 chief constables.

The “damaging” security lapse saw banks of screens in the city's CCTV control room being left un-watched on the morning of September’s National Police Memorial Day service.

A City of York Council briefing paper seen by The Press said sickness, a resignation and lack of cover created staffing issues on the day of the service, but the council only realised it was a “critical” issue four-and-a-half hours after the first shift had been due to start.

More than 2,000 people, including serving police officers, attended the remembrance service for fallen police officers on September 30.

The note, by the council’s head of network management, said that officers “under considerable pressure” found volunteers to man screens from 1pm, just two hours before the service started. A team leader was given that day off without anybody to cover their shift, because they had recently worked extra hours and Sundays were “usually quieter”.

The Conservative group on City of York Council has now demanded an investigation and called for the resignation of a leading councillor, while Mark Botham, chair of the North Yorkshire Police Federation, said he was “appalled” at the lapse.

The council said CCTV footage was recorded throughout and screens in the authority's offices at St Leonard’s Place were monitored during “critical times”. North Yorkshire Police said “no security risks” emerged around the service, which was attended by relatives of officers killed in the line of duty, Home Secretary Theresa May and many of Britain’s top police chiefs.

The briefing note said CCTV was not raised in discussions between the council and police about the service, and was “assumed” to be in place. Four days before the service, council officers realised CCTV staff might be needed for flood management on the Sunday, but no volunteers were available and the need to also cover the 3pm service was only raised at 12.30pm on September 30.

Council leader James Alexander called for an examination of the CCTV system in 2010, when a whistleblower claimed the control room was regularly unmonitored.

Conservative councillor Paul Healey said: “Given Coun Alexander’s public outrage when in opposition to allegations about lack of CCTV coverage, I find this an extraordinary disregard for public safety and damaging to the reputation of York. He should be asking for the responsible cabinet member’s resignation and a thorough independent review.”

Mr Botham said: “We are appalled that such a high-profile police event, attended by the Home Secretary, senior police figures across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and relatives of fallen police officers, could be treated in such a manner. We hope the council would consider making a donation to the National Police Memorial Service to, in some way, make up for this error.”

North Yorkshire Police said the policing operation was “very successful”.

Darren Richardson, the council's head of city and environmental services, said the authority was not required to provide CCTV, but did so to protect public safety.

He said: “Round-the-clock monitoring of CCTV forms a major part of that work and more than 120 cameras record on a constant 24-hour basis, irrespective of whether the control room is staffed.

"Unfortunately, staffing levels can come under pressure through unforeseen sickness absence, which was the case in this instance. However, the council always responds quickly and appropriately to ensure the control room is manned during critical times. As such, cover was put in place two hours before the start of the service.”

Coun Dafydd Williams, cabinet member for crime and stronger communities, said any ministerial visit meant extra police security, and a “silver command plan” had been “signed off” in advance. He said: “The police have confirmed they were happy with all arrangements for the day, including CCTV coverage, which is not a security measure in itself.”

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