Security Issues: What Happened at Glamis Hall
There has been much talk about the fact I was threatened by one of Thames Water’s covert security guards at one of their drop in sessions. We have waited for Thames Water to do the decent thing and come up with a credible explanation as to why this happened. We didn’t get any, I was called a liar instead. At this point it is better to have the whole thing explained and, at least on our part, made clear to all our supporters and those interested in the protection of civil rights and liberties.
On 23 November 2011, Thames Water held a drop in session at Glamis Residents’ Hall as part of Phase 2 Consultation on their controversial Super Sewer. This was the first of a three days event.
I went along to the exhibition together with many supporters and other members of the SaveKEMP team. We knew that Thames Water was going to have a security presence as they had complained about some jokes exchanged on our Facebook page, judging them threatening and claiming that “comment like that started the London riots”. For the sake of clarity, I shall copy here the dangerous, civil-unrest-inducing jokes:
Mark Baynes: Better tell them [Thames Water] that I will be bringing a video camera along
KKEPG [Toni Davey]: How about making a “slash” movie… Thames water Slaughter could be a good title )
Mark Baynes: Nice. I will bring the chainsaw if you bring the sawdust to mop the blood up.
Nick Tennant, Communication Manager London Tideway Tunnels, went as far as calling Canon Michael Ainsworth, St George-In-The-East (which just happens to be Toni’s parish where she serves on the PCC and as a School Governor), to complain about the comment and tell him that the Thames Water team does not feel safe in our area. Make of this what you wish, I call it a gross attempt at undermining someone’s credibility in their social circles. But that’s just me…
That’s the background dealt with.
At the exhibition I discussed the plans with some Thames Water engineers. Then I proceeded to look at the poorly put together [mis-]information tables displayed with Toni. She jokingly asked the covert and yet very conspicuous security guard whether he would sign our petition to save the park. He smiled and declined, we giggled and Toni went to talk with someone else just few feet away.
At that point the security guard accosted me and whispering told me my full name, where I am from and where I work. Let’s be generous and put aside for a moment the fact that being accosted and whispered at by some very imposing strange man is beyond creepy. Here’s the big, fat, multi-layered rub:
1) nobody ever uses my full name, even in official meeting notes I go by Emma. True, my full name can be found on my Facebook profile, but then again you would have to look for it.
2) He knew where I am from… how?
3) He knew where I work and that’s the most problematic of all because it’s not even a proper job. I occasionally help a friend who just opened a business because she helps with the campaign. Of course, if someone saw me there, they would probably assume I did work in the premises. But that’s just it: in order to know/think that I “worked” there you would have to either see me in the premises or have access to my personal email or mobile phone. The bottom line is that not even my Facebook “friends” could have any indication of my dealings with that particular business. There is no public information about it. My brother doesn’t know about it. But Thames Water does. I just want to know how they know it and why they feel they need to know it. I think it is a legitimate request.
It goes without saying that I was very upset when I was accosted in this way and I asked the guard: “How do you know?!”. His reply: “It’s because I’m clever”. I asked again: “No really, how do you know?!” Because I was visibly upset, he changed his answer to: “I overheard you saying it.” When I kept insisting he walked out.
I turned then to Belinda Redpath (Thames Water Communication Team) and asked why they security had information about me that is not in the public domain. She shrugged her shoulders and told me she didn’t know. I then approached Toni and other supporters and told them what happened.
Toni then asked the security guard whether he knew her name, too and how did he know those things about me. He said that he had overheard me introducing myself to another supporter. This is beyond ridiculous, of course, and totally illogical. Our supporters have been following us for over a year: they know who we are. Plus, as I said, I introduce myself as Emma and I never feel the need to give people details about my passport and my CV all in one breath. But the important thing here is that the guard admitted having personal information and telling me about it in front of witnesses. This is not a matter of my word against the guard’s as Phil Stride wants to make it seem, I’m afraid.
After I left the drop in I called Carl, our Chairman (and my husband), who left work and immediately went down to Glamis Hall to inquire about what had happened. He approached the security guard and asked whether he was security (he had no visible ID). He denied. Carl then went in and asked Belinda Redpath where the security guard was. She indicated the guard who had just denied being a guard. Carl approached the guard again and asked: “Are you security?” He denied again. Carl told him Belinda had identified him as security and asked for his company name, his ID and license. The guard refused to give both. Carl asked for his ID and license again and the security guard asked him for his ID. At no point the security guard admitted being a security guard or produced his ID or license despite being asked several times.
How the issue has been addressed.
Since then we have written to Phil Stride, talked to him on the phone on several occasions and yet Thames Water maintain that the security guard denies saying those things to me. Shame he admitted saying them in front of witnesses.
Our elected representatives, who were immediately notified about the incident, have taken the matter very seriously. The Thames Water team was quizzed about their security at the working group meeting held the following Monday. Although they never admitted having campaigners under surveillance, they never denied it either. Phil Stride said at one point that they have employed a security firm and they “might have run a Google search” on the campaigners. He refused to tell whether Thames Water has profiled us. I can tell you right now that if you Google-searched me you would never find any mention of my dealing with my friends business.
Cllr Josh Peck, LBTH Leader of the Opposition, has written to Martin Baggs (here and here) but he has received no proper answer to his questions, just a statement claiming that the security guard denies saying those things to me. It’s a broken record…
Jim Fitzpatrick MP is also involved and he tabled 3 questions about the matter to the House:
How many “covert licenses” have been issued by the Home Office over the past 2 years?.
What is the procedure for applying and securing “covert licenses” for security staff?.
How many “covert licenses” for security guards the department has issued to Thames Water?
From the answers he received it appears that by law all security operatives including covert security “must carry their license on them and produce it upon request.”
SaveKEMP and our elected representatives are still investigating the incident and we will keep you updated. It’s a serious matter.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the Kempers, the colleagues from other campaigns and the elected officials who have sent messages of support. They are very appreciated.