Close encounters of the video kind

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The Independent Online
JOHN McKIE

The traditional British night out may never be the same again. An evening in a nightclub followed by a fight in the street or sex in a shop doorway could now lead to an unsolicited starring film role.

The release today of a video Caught in the Act! taken from closed-circuit television footage, includes excerpts of an amorous couple indulging in a spot of al fresco passion, as well as others embroiled in some rather less affectionate embraces and hotel workers divesting themselves of their clothing in staff changing rooms. The common denominator is that all were unaware they were being filmed.

But the content has prompted immediate calls from MPs for a ban on its sale. It is the latest work from Barrie Goulding, the film-maker who made Executions, which showed 21 films of people being put to death. It led to such outrage that WH Smith and John Menzies banned it after politicians and police condemned it.

Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, has written to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, arguing that the use of CCTV for commercial gain leaves people "wide open" to blackmail. "I wrote to Mr Howard after two of my constituents were being made fun of, through a video of them taken in a store," he said. "It wasn't a big deal but there is a wider issue. The Government is powerless ... and legislation is needed to ensure cameras are used only for security."

Mr Goulding said yesterday: "It's voyeuristic, I wouldn't deny that. It is a commercial film and I will make money from it. But there is a message - who watches the watcher?"

The Home Office last night admitted it could be powerless to prevent the film's release. A spokeswoman said: "We would condemn the use of irresponsible video images but we have produced a code of conduct with every closed-circuit camera. If that code is breached, we stop funding. But CCTV cuts crime and we don't want to make rules too vigorous." The issue may ultimately rest with the British Board of Film Classification.

It is also being taken up by the pressure group, Liberty. Treasurer John Lyons said: "People do not expect to be spied on in this way or for the material to be sold as entertainment."

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