UK: Home Office exhibition ensures police, security and military firms are kept away from prying eyes

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The UK Home Office has begun promoting its 2013 Security & Policing Exhibition, a high-profile event aimed at "police, law enforcement and security professionals who are tasked with security, civil protection and National Resilience," and has a "strict visitors criteria" which "enables exhibitors to display products which would be too sensitive to show in a more open environment." [1]

"Unique to this event is the participation of UK Government," says the exhibition website. "The event exists to provide the level of industry engagement needed to enable UK Government to procure and deliver its national security priorities."

This participation includes briefings from the Home Office to attendees, intended to "inform industry of current government thinking", and which in 2012 focused on "surveillance, e-crime and the Olympics." [2]

At the 2012 event, alongside firms selling products such as fencing, radios, access control mechanisms and hazardous material protection gear, were major arms firms such as BAE Systems, Cassidian, Cobham, QinetiQ, and Thales.

The magazine Counter Terror Business describes the event as "the corner of the security calendar" providing "a crucible of shared knowledge and experience, focusing on the Home Office priority areas: security and counter terrorism, crime and policing, border security and immigration control." [3]

The list of criteria for exhibitors at last year's event states that "the exhibition is for police and public security equipment; exhibitors must be manufacturers or vendors of such" and that "UK law enforcement and other agencies must be able to purchase and use the equipment." [4]

The "visitor profile" for 2012 covered the following:
- UK and European police forces
- Chief constables and their department representatives
- Emergency services
- The Home Office
- Prisons and correctional facilities
- Customs, immigration and bordefra gencies
- Government security agencies
- Ministry of Defence department and procurement heads
- Resilience forums (local counter-terrorism organisations that have been developed in the UK over the last decade)
- Key providers of critical national infrastructure, described as "civil nuclear, utilities, transport infrastructure, financial services etc." [5]

In 2011, nearly 4,000 visitors attended, representing 572 UK and international governments and organisations. Overseas visitors are invited as part of a formal government scheme, "with security dignitaries and operators from around the world being hosted at the exhibition by UKTI DSO [UK Trade and Industry Defence and Security Organisation]." [6]

UKTI DSO is a state institution which also organises the bi-annual DSEi arms fair. In recent years, DSO has invited to DSEi representatives of the governments of Colombia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Angola, amongst others. [7] The overseas attendees at the Security & Policing exhibition remain unknown.

Next year's event will be held in Farnborough between 12 and 14 March and will be organised by ADS, an organisation "advancing UK aerospace, defence, security and space industries, globally," and which in 2011 won a ten-year contract to organise the exhibition.

ADS organises the event in conjunction with the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST), which until recently was known as the Home Office Scientific Development Branch.

CAST is described as "a core part of the Home Office supporting ministers, policy formulation and frontline operations, and operating where others cannot for reasons of impartiality, national security or market failure." [8]

Its work is focused on contraband detection ("illicit material including people/stowaways, money, drugs, explosives, weapons and CBRN material"); [9] crime investigation; crime prevention and community safety; identity assurance; protective security; public order; and surveillance.

CAST made the news late last year when it said that a proposal to use a "shoulder-mounted laser that emits a blinding wall of light" as a way of repelling rioters "had merit". [10]

Its work over the last decade has included assessing "'less lethal' options for the UK law enforcement community", which has "enabled the UK to introduce a range of less lethal capabilities such as the Attenuating Energy Projectile (AEP), incapacitant sprays and Tasers©." [11]

Representatives from CAST also sit on the panel of judges for the ADS Security Innovation Awards, to be handed out at the exhibition's "gala dinner" in Guildford Cathedral. The award is "presented to the advanced engineer of a piece of equipment, technology or service which is deemed to be unique and innovative," and is deemed "an excellent PR opportunity for your company." [12]

[1] 'Security & Policing', Home Office
[2] 'A crucible of knowledge for the industry', Counter Terror Business, undated
[3] Ibid.
[4] ADS & Home Office, 'Security & Policing Exhibition', undated
[5] Ibid.
[6] 'A crucible of knowledge for the industry'
[7] 'Buyers at DSEi', Campaign Against Arms Trade, 12 September 2011
[8] Home Office, 'Centre for Applied Science and Technology - an Introduction', 2011
[9] Ibid.
[10] Matthew Holehouse, 'Police to test laser that 'blinds rioters'', The Telegraph, 11 December 2011; See also 'Police use of plastic bullets would be "a recipe for disaster"', Statewatch News Online, 6 July 2012
[11] 'Centre for Applied Science and Technology - an Introduction'
[12] 'Security Innovation Award', Home Office

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