Khalid Mahmood: 'Spy cameras should have stayed'
- 24 February 2013
- From the section Birmingham & Black Country
An MP has said more than 200 so-called "spy" cameras which were put up in largely Muslim areas of Birmingham should never have been removed.
Khalid Mahmood said the cameras, called Project Champion, would have been an "effective tool" in helping security services track terror suspects.
The cameras, which were removed in late-2010 after never being switched on, sparked protests from residents.
An independent report was highly critical of the scheme and the police.
Mr Mahmood's comments came after three men from the city were convicted on Thursday of plotting a suicide bomb attack which they said would rival 9/11 or the 7 July bombings.
The court heard how Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, had been preparing for acts of terrorism between December 2010 and their arrest in September the following year.
They were not caught with the help of Operation Champion.
However, Mr Mahmood, the Labour MP for Perry Barr, said he believed the project had potential to bolster "safety and security" in areas like Washwood Heath, Sparkbrook and Moseley, where the cameras were erected.
He said he wanted to see a replacement introduced.
He said: "I understand the issue of 'Big Brother' watching people, but when there is an overall issue of the civil liberties of people who could be maimed or killed by actions of certain individuals, it is worth it."
He added: "The reality is that there have been terrorist plots foiled in this area, and people caught, which shows there is a need."
Mr Mahmood said the reason the cameras had been so unpopular was because of a lack of consultation across the communities involved.
"Some of those cameras were sold off for £1 each - it was such a waste of money," he said.
"I know there's been strong feeling against the idea, but all that was needed was to speak properly to the people in those areas - not just community leaders - and explain the reasons why they were needed."
'Cameras not welcome'
The cameras, some of which were hidden, were paid for with £3m of government money put aside for tackling terrorism.
An independent report into the cameras by Thames Valley Police found guidelines regarding the positioning of cameras were not followed.
The findings were highly critical, saying West Midlands Police had paid little attention to "compliance with the legal or regulatory framework" and relations between the Muslim community and police had been set back 10 years.
Critics of the project included Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, who said the police overall had displayed "incompetence" over how the situation had been handled.
Human rights group Liberty also questioned the legality of the cameras, saying the planned surveillance was in breach of the Human Rights Act.
Steve Jolly, who set up the Spy On Moseley protest group against Project Champion, said: "To call to bring these cameras back does not even make any sense.
"The police already have suitable powers and they have used them. The cameras were not needed and they are not welcome now."