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Security guards to use tiny cameras on university campus
Private security guards will be able to use James Bond-style miniature cameras under a new security agreement with university bosses.
The University of Sussex's new agreement with contractors Interserve allows security staff to wear a "continuously-recording video camera" on their lapel.
The permitted use of the mini cameras has been revealed following a successful challenge of Freedom of Information rules by student Gabriel Webber after the university initially refused to release the details.
University officials defended the use of the cameras claiming they were installed for the safety of security guards employed by external contractors Interserve.
Mr Webber challenged the university’s decision not to release more than 100 pages of their contract with catering firm Compass and security provider Interserve.
The Information Commissioner agreed with Mr Webber that the majority of the information should be released to the public.
The papers also revealed that the university’s lawyers negotiated a term in the contract that Interserve would take all “reasonable steps to prevent any protests and demonstrations” taking place on the premises.
Mr Webber claims this is in conflict with assurances by the university’s head of security Roger Morgan that students were given the opportunity to hold peaceful demonstrations and marches.
The politics and international relations student said the tactics employed by the security firm on behalf of the university were “disproportionate” and “two-faced”.
He added: “The lapel cameras, although not shocking, is still outrageous, but what is worse is that they are contracting a group to stop protest on campus when they had said publically that peaceful protest was allowed.
“The decision not to release the information was a deliberate act to stop people finding out this information, which was buried in lines and lines of this contract.”
A university spokesman said while the university takes its obligations under Freedom of Information legislation “very seriously” and always “strive to fully comply”, the law is “complex and evolving” and in this case there was a delay while the Information Commissioner determined what information was protected by commercial confidentiality.
He added: “Use of body cameras for security staff aids their personal security, especially when they are working alone, and is a best practice approach.
“Protests have not been banned on campus and nor have staff been instructed to prevent protests.
“But last year some protests were accompanied with physical attacks on staff, theft of money and possessions and extensive damage to property.
“Such behaviour is completely unacceptable and we have tasked our security staff to ensure that there is not a repeat of it.”
This article has been amended. The Argus is happy to clarify that the lapel cameras have not been used on campus yet.
A University of Sussex spokesman told The Argus this morning that security guards on campus are not currently using body-worn cameras.
This is something that was written into the contract with Interserve but has not yet been implemented as Interserve only took over responsibility for security in January.
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