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  1. A photograph taken by a police helicopter camera and circulated on the force's official social media account has raised questions. Was what they did unlawful, asks Chris Stokel-Walker. At 10:34 BST on Wednesday NPAS London, the official Twitter account of the National Police Air Support Unit - which provides helicopters to ground-based police to help find criminals and missing people - tweeted the picture above. The grainy image, seemingly taken just after 08:00 BST, shows a man with a mop of black hair in a pink shirt and dark blue suit standing on the edge of a pavement. The latitude and longitude points in the bottom corners of the picture appear to indicate where the helicopter was hovering as the picture was taken - a point between Leicester Square and Covent Garden Tube stations. The picture's caption says: "Whilst on tasking in central London this morning we spotted a certain energetic funny man... Can you guess who?..." It was indeed Michael McIntyre, comedian and host of several BBC programmes, accompanied by publicist Alison Peters. The answer Taking the picture would not be seen as a breach of privacy The 'needless' publication of the photo by the police could breach privacy, it is argued, but the Met deny the law has been broken The picture has since been deleted by NPAS London, which claims that "each activity undertaken" by its helicopters "can be categorised into four principle [sic] roles: Public and Police Safety, Intelligence Gathering, Tactical Support and Counter Terrorism". Responses on social media have largely been opposed to the picture being taken, but is it unlawful? The Information Commissioner's Office is investigating already. "The police especially must ensure that they have legitimate grounds for processing personal data, and disclosing images of this nature without a justifiable policing purpose could potentially breach the Data Protection Act. We will follow this up with the force concerned." "In a nutshell, the taking of the photograph is unlikely to be an invasion of privacy," explains Simon McKay, a criminal and human rights lawyer, and author of the leading textbook on covert policing law. "However, its needless publication almost certainly is, assuming Michael McIntyre didn't consent, which seems likely." The UK has historically had no deliberate privacy laws, but it is widely believed that a form of law has been built up through the Human Rights Act as well as other bits of legislation. According to McKay: "The Metropolitan Police is a data controller and this is personal data, so there are compliance issues. On the face of it it also breaches the CCTV Code of Practice." The post is a breach of the 12-point code, Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter said. He has contacted the Metropolitan Police. "Under the code, images should only be used for their stated purpose - which for the police is to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Public disclosure of anyone's image for the purposes of fun is a clear breach of that." McKay said there was legal precedent that related to the McIntyre case. "The courts have held the arbitrary publication of photographs by the police without a pressing need to do so is unlawful." Taking the picture was not an issue, but the decision to post it online could cause problems. A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said in a statement that "this tweet does not, as far as we know, constitute a breach of data protection legislation", adding that it "was deleted due to due negative responses on Twitter". McKay calls the incident "an ill-judged moment made without thinking which has placed into sharp focus the inherent risks of the surveillance society". http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33535578
  2. PILOT error was not to blame for the Clutha helicopter crash, it is understood an interim report into the disaster will reveal. Preliminary findings on the tragedy point the finger at faulty fuel gauges aboard the police helicopter as the likely source of the accident. Three crew members and seven people on a night out died when the Eurocopter EC135, operated by Bond on behalf of Police Scotland, plummeted onto the roof of the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow on the night of November 29, 2013. It had been returning from a routine operation when, according to eyewitnesses, it "dropped like a stone". The report goes some way to explaining why two vital fuel switches came to be turned off shortly before the crash. It also sheds light on a worldwide safety alert issued by Eurocopter to operators of the same model that crashed in Glasgow, saying that a problem with the low fuel level warning system had been discovered in a number of aircraft. The warning, issued in December less than two weeks after the crash, came after an air ambulance, one of its 22 aircraft leased in the UK, was found to have a fuel indicator problem. Tests found others also had the same fault. The initial investigation by the the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found that the Eurocopter EC135 suffered double engine failure as a result of fuel starvation. The aircraft had 76kg of fuel in its main tank but none of the fuel was reaching the engines because the key transfer pumps had been switched off. As a result fuel could not ­transfer from the main tank into the two supply tanks, which in turn pump fuel to the left and right engines. The switches which control the pumps are located in the cockpit ceiling to the rear of the pilot and can only be turned off manually. The fact that fuel switches were turned to the off position was previously said to be the "smoking gun" behind the tragedy, as they control the flow of fuel to the engines and were both supposed to be on throughout flight. It suggests that the pilot may have been trying to reset the system after being tricked into thinking there was a problem with the fuel supply. The AAIB report on February 14 stated that there was zero fuel in the right supply tank and just 400g in the left supply tank at the time of impact. It noted that "in the latter stages of the flight, the right engine flamed out, and shortly after the left engine flamed out". A series of low-fuel warnings were also recorded during the flight. Along with pilot David Traill, PC Tony Collins and PC Kirsty Nelis were on board the helicopter and were killed in the crash. The seven customers in the Clutha who lost their lives in the accident were John McGarrigle, Mark O'Prey, Gary Arthur, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, Samuel McGhee and Joe Cusker. A spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which issued the interim report, said: "This report is not the final report and we will not be commenting at this stage." http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/pilot-error-not-the-cause-of-clutha-crash.125428877
  3. One-third of police helicopter bases in England and Wales could be closed because of government funding cuts, the BBC has learned. The National Police Air Service (NPAS) is considering plans to reduce the number of its bases to 15. It currently operates from 20 bases and there are plans for three more to be made available by September 2016. But the service is facing cuts and is considering a "15-base model" rather than the planned 23. 'Difficult decisions' NPAS was launched in October 2012 to co-ordinate the deployment of police helicopters in England and Wales, which were then operated by individual forces from 30 bases. It is facing funding cuts of 14% in the next three years in addition to the 23% savings already made by establishing the NPAS, the force said. The accountable manager for the NPAS, Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse, said: "There is no easy way to do this and difficult decisions have to be made. "A benefit of the NPAS is that we have a far greater understanding of the demands placed upon police aviation and how to approach 'borderless tasking' i.e. how we best deploy the assets at our disposal to improve efficiency and effectiveness even more." The NPAS has 22 helicopters and provides services to all of the police forces in England and Wales, including British Transport Police. The lead force is West Yorkshire Police. The 20 current bases Birmingham Airport, Birmingham Halfpenny Green, Wolverhampton Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire Ripley, Derbyshire Carr Gate, Wakefield Durham Tees Valley Airport Newcastle Airport Sheffield, South Yorkshire Barton - Greater Manchester Hawarden - Flintshire, North Wales Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, North Wales St Athan, South Wales Warton - Lancashire Benson - Oxfordshire Boreham Airport - Essex Redhill - Surrey Wattisham - Suffolk Bournemouth Airport, Bournemouth Exeter Airport, Exeter Filton, South Gloucestershire http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31152569
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