Chiswick Woman Sees Herself Being Mugged On TV

H & F Council gave CCTV footage of attack to Channel 5 for show

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A Chiswick woman has told of her shock and anger at seeing footage of her being mugged broadcast on a Channel 5 programme about how CCTV can help catch criminals.

The woman was injured when a man who had been lurking in a doorway in King Street attacked her and tried to steal her handbag in June 2013. She had been walking towards her home in Chiswick after her train had stopped in Hammersmith around midnight.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council have apologised to the victim (see statement below). The footage came from its ultra-modern CCTV control hub which gave Channel 5 access to footage for a documentary series. The Council's control room streams images from over 800 cameras operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The attack was captured on a Council CCTV camera and given to police who later arrested a man on suspicion of that attack and of another assault on a woman earlier that evening. However, there was no prosecution as neither woman was able to identify the suspect in an identity parade.

The victim says she was very shaken by the attack where she was knocked to the ground and the man bit her face as she grappled to get free. Two passing cars stopped and two male occupants chased him away, while two women in a second car had helped her and taken her home where she was interviewed by police.

"I asked the police twice if I could view the footage but had the responses of no, as it was a live case, followed by no, they have no procedure to enable this. At that point I let it go and tried to put the whole thing behind me."

However, she said she was shocked to receive a text from a work colleague a few weeks ago saying she had recognised her being attacked in a programme broadcast on Channel 5 entitled 'Captured on Camera- Muggers and Mayhem'.

"The colleague from work recognised me and this was further confirmed by the presenter giving time and location details. He also described me as "lucky" in comparison to the next victim shown who -I think, as I have been unable to watch the programme properly- had her throat slit.

"I watched as much of the programme as I could (via on demand) and a part of the assault on me is indeed broadcast. I want to know how this footage got into the hands of a television company who have broadcasted it as entertainment? At no point was I approached for permission for this to happen. I would never have consented for this to be given to a television company and broadcast "

The woman, who does not want her name used, told that she had complained to Channel 5, Hammersmith & Fulham Council and had now written to her local MP and lodged a complaint with Ofcom.

"This has really upset me and brought up the whole matter again. It cannot be right or legal that Hammersmith and Fulham council can give CCTV footage of an incredibly distressing incident, in which I suffered a sustained and severe personal attack and am identifiable, to a television company. What if my family had seen it?

"People in Chiswick need to know this happened, it could happen to anyone. I had to have an aids test and tetanus jab after it. I am incredibly upset and have been in tears about the whole thing all over again as a direct result. I avoid walking to/from Hammersmith even now."

She said she wanted to share her story with readers bearing in mind the recent experience of women being assaulted in Chiswick.

A spokesperson for Hammersmith & Fulham Council said: “We are extremely sorry for any upset and distress this has caused as this was certainly not our intention. In October 2013 the Council was approached by Channel 5 about a series demonstrating how CCTV can be effective in deterring, detecting and investigating crime and anti-social behaviour. We took the decision that this programme would reassure the public of the benefits of CCTV and help deter crime. We agreed that, subject to a comprehensive legal contract with Channel 5, the programme should go ahead.

"The contract included a clause whereby Channel 5 was totally responsible for seeking consent from anyone whose rights were affected by the series. We are disappointed that C5 did not originally stick to its agreement with us but we were pleased that after we intervened to enforce it, they removed the segment from the edit and have assured the council that this incident will never be broadcast again. The Council’s contract with Channel 5 has now been paused, pending review.”

Channel 5 has told the woman that it took steps to ensure she would not be identified in the broadcast.

The TV company said that the original footage from the CCTV control room was taken at a distance and the level of clarity of pixilation was very poor- their technical experts had checked both before broadcast and several times subsequent to receipt of her complaint, and although the broadcast makes clear that the victim had a face, no identifying feature of that face was included in the broadcast.

Caught On Camera was a "serious programme", not commissioned as an entertainment programme but as a Factual/Documentary programme intended to inform the public about the issues that are dealt with in its episodes, they said.

The programme is not currently available to view via the on demand service.

December 18, 2014