We have been told that this camera does not exist, to information that not only it does exist but the Police have viewed footage from it and failed to make it available to the defence. This is despite repeated requests that ALL CCTV footage be provided.
We have discovered that Camera 15 is located overlooking the scene of the incident, at the junction of Lord Street and Eastbank Street.
Conflicting information we have been given so far (over past 2 years) regarding Camera 15:
In early January 2010 I visited Southport Lord Street to enquire of any local CCTV footage that may have been available. At this time I was directed to a camera by a local retailer, who pointed out a black dome attached to a lamp post disguised as ‘street furniture’, he informed me that it is a surveillance camera operated by the Police. (That camera is now known to be Camera 15).
I sent an email to the Sol (legal advisor for accused), asking him to obtain footage from this camera as it was in direct close proximity and overlooking the place of the incident. I received the following mobile phone call: “I am in Southport ‘now’ (late Jan early Feb 2010 telecon) and have enquired about it and can tell you that it is definitely not a camera”. After his visit to Southport, Sol became evasive and we had little if any communication leading up to the trial thereafter.
I also received the following responses from Sefton Security: “We do not have any cameras in that specific location”, and “We do not keep copies of CCTV footage provided to the Police”.
Following several letters and emails, Sefton Security eventually stated “it is a camera and it is one of ours (no explanation as to why not known before) and is numbered camera 15.”
According to Sefton Security: “Merseyside Police did not view or request to see any footage from Camera 15, as there was ‘none available’ at that time, probably due to it being out of order”. A request for maintenance records was made. The response: “We do not keep maintenance records and have none for Camera 15 so cannot tell you what was wrong with it or when it was fixed”.
This is clearly contradicted in the Investigating Officers email – he states CCTV footage from Camera 15 had been viewed! We received a copy of the Investigating Officers email dated 12 Jan 2012, we and James’ defence had not seen or been made aware that any footage had in fact been seen or existed from Camera 15. It had been clearly stated verbally by a Sefton Security employee that: “the police ‘did not’ request to see any footage from Camera 15”.
Camera 15 was looking the other way. “ALL” of the cameras in Southport at that time were apparently looking the other way. But the police still included several hours of footage, as evidence of an empty and deserted Ocean Plaza car park almost a mile away from the scene and totally unconnected. They also included many hours of other totally useless footage from other areas, including West Street and Coronation Walk, so why not that of Camera 15?
There is also the taxi driver’s statement, at the scene when the incident occurred, that a male in a white hoodie, short blonde hair, missing front tooth, jumped into the back of taxi asking to be taken elsewhere (not James). This person was described by prosecution witnesses running about screaming for a knife or brick during the incident, accompanied by another male armed with a weapon, who then pursued SK (co-accused) who had fled in fear. There came a time when the person in a white hoodie entered the taxi but the driver refused to take him. He then got out on the Eastbank Street side of taxi and fled in that direction. This male and his involvement has never been accounted for by Merseyside Police.
I believe that all of the cameras operated by Sefton Security can be viewed and/or operated by Merseyside Police Surveillance Control Centre and I am also told that in the event of receiving emergency calls they can and do actually take over control of the cameras.
We now need to know where the footage of Camera 15 is, what it shows, and why and on whose instruction it was withheld and not produced to the defence. In matters so serious as this I do not think it would be or is the responsibility of a single officer to decide what may or may not be relevant CCTV evidence.
Failing to mention Camera 15 at all is in itself questionable. It was not identified on the camera location map provided to defence or CPS, and I doubt the CPS was ever made aware of its existence.