Heathrow worker 'ogled colleague on scanner'

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The Independent Online

An airport worker allegedly caught ogling images of a female colleague in a full-body scanner faces the sack after being given a police warning for harassment.

The Heathrow worker, named by The Sun newspaper as 25-year-old John Laker, allegedly made lewd remarks to colleague Jo Margetson, 29, after she entered an X-ray machine.

She reported the matter to her bosses and to police.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said today: "Police received an allegation regarding an incident that happened at Heathrow Terminal 5 on March 10.

"A first instance harassment warning has been issued to a 25-year-old male."

A spokeswoman for BAA, which runs Heathrow, said: "We treat any allegations of inappropriate behaviour or misuse of security equipment very seriously and these claims are investigated thoroughly.

"If these claims are found to be substantiated, we will take appropriate action."

The new full-body scanners are being rolled out across UK airports following the failed Christmas Day bomb plot to blow up a jet over Detroit in the US.

Their introduction has been opposed by some groups who fear the revealing nature of the images the scanners provide could breach people's rights.

The question of privacy was raised in a report on airport security by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee today.

The committee said: "Having witnessed these full-body scanners working at first hand, we are confident that the privacy concerns that have been expressed in relation to these devices are overstated and that full body scanners are no more an invasion of privacy than manual 'pat-downs' or searches of bags.

"Air passengers already tolerate a large invasion of their privacy and we do not feel that full body scanners add greatly to this situation. Privacy concerns should not prevent the deployment of scanners."

One of the bodies that has questioned the legality of scanners is the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Responding to the Home Affairs Committee report, the commission said: "We believe there is a risk that the way body scanning was introduced in UK airports breaches discrimination law, as well as breaching passengers' human right to privacy.

"We are concerned that a lack of training for staff who undertake these scans, as well as a lack of safeguards, mean that authorities will be unable to check the system is being operated lawfully, with fairness and without discriminating against people just because of their race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability.

"Of course, breaching people's right to privacy is justifiable when you are protecting passengers' safety and security, but it has to be within the law.

"We believe the Government has failed to demonstrate that this policy is within the law, which is why we wrote to (Home Secretary) Alan Johnson earlier this year with our concerns."

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: "When privacy-invading machines like these are installed at our airports, abuses like this are inevitable.

"For every official given peeping tom powers stupid enough to voice his ogling out loud, there are plenty more eyeing up law-abiding travellers but keeping their leering to themselves.

"Cases like this will only lead to greater calls for these scanners to be banned."