Examination of Witness

London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 17 May 2011.

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Chris Allison gave evidence.

Q 98

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Welcome, Mr Allison. The Committee is greatly looking forward to receiving your evidence. Would you mind formally introducing yourself and making some brief comments about the Bill?

Chris Allison: Chair, thank you very much. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Chris Allison. I am an assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service, and I am privileged to be something called the national Olympic security co-ordinator. A bit of background as to what that is: as you are aware, 70% of the Olympics is taking place in London, but 30% is taking place elsewhere in the country. The Olympics will also impact on every force in the country. The torch is clearly running for 70 days up and down the country, there will be the impact of the parallel events taking place and, to deliver the games in both London and Dorset, we will require officers from across the country.

My role as the national Olympic security co-ordinator is, in effect, to lead for the police service and co-ordinate planning up and down the country. Both in the planning stages up until the games and during games delivery time, I will be co-ordinating the national policing response from a newly created national Olympic co-ordination centre based at Scotland Yard.

The reason why I think I am here today is to support the proposed increase in the fine for ticket touting from £5,000 to £20,000. There is a significant link between ticket touting, serious organised crime, ticket fraud and counterfeit tickets. The Olympics will attract those. I know from personal experience; I was privileged to get out to Vancouver with a small number of my team to see the winter Olympics, and one of my abiding memories is fighting my way through a sea of ticket touts who were all trying to take anything off me that they could. The Home Office official whom I deal with, Robert Raine, and I were determined that we were not going to allow that to happen in London, for a variety of reasons.  It makes it look lawless, it makes it feel lawless, it gives the opportunity for individuals to rip off members of the public and it sends the wrong message.

We know that at the Olympics, there will be a massive demand for tickets. We are already seeing that in relation to applications through the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Therefore, there is a lot of money to be made by those who want to do so. Serious and organised crime are already talking about it. Operation Podium, which is targeting this sort of activity, has been running since June of last year. It has already made a significant number of arrests for a variety of offences, but we have been targeting ticket touts. Therefore, our view is that this is an important measure, but it is one of a number of things that we will be doing. It is not only about increasing the fine, but also about us applying the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to individuals, which we will do wherever we possibly can. It is about putting the fear of crime back on to the criminals, rather than on to the innocent victims.

We are very supportive of the proposal. We have to deal with ticket touts day in, day out, as part of our routine business around football, and I can say to the Committee that, anecdotally, we have heard from some touts that the Home Secretary’s announcement of this proposal has already made some of them say, “I’m not interested in a fine of 20 grand. I’ll go away and do something different.” If that is helping in some way, that has to be a good thing, because I do not want to see what I saw in Vancouver happen during 2012.

Q 99

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

My friend, Sharon Hodgson, who has taken a great interest in ticket touting, will come in with a number of detailed questions on this.

I will begin by thanking Chris Allison for the really excellent leadership that you are providing for the Olympic team. We all appreciate that very much indeed. I wondered if I could just focus on serious and organised crime, of which ticket touting is obviously a manifestation. Like Chris Allison, I was also in Vancouver, looking specifically at the risks of trafficking and the sexual exploitation of young men and women at a large sporting event. I must say that, having concluded some 10 meetings during my time there, I was impressed by the rigour with which they approached this. Given that we want to ensure that any serious organised crime, such as ticket touting, is not part of our Olympics, I wonder, Mr Amess, whether I could tax your patience a little bit by first asking Mr Allison what he thinks the lessons of Vancouver were. I would be happy to share with him the quite detailed research that I did. Secondly, I want to ask what he judges the risk to be. Thirdly, what is the capacity of the preventive teams to provide an early alert to an increase in the proliferation of sex workers or, indeed, any evidence of trafficking?

Chris Allison: If I could cover the generality, we were very lucky in relation to Vancouver. We got fantastic access courtesy of Bud Mercer—my counterpart out there—who was the assistant commissioner who ran the operation, and I was able to embed a number of my command team alongside his command team during the games, so we got fantastic access and a lot of learning about various bits of business.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation is something that we have talked about on a number of occasions. There is a team called Specialist Crime Department 9 that is  looking at that activity, and there is work monitoring what is going on in the east end of London. We have to date seen no increase whatsoever in that sort of activity, but we are clearly keeping an eye on it to ensure that something does not happen. I am satisfied that we have the necessary links with all the various non-governmental organisations, and Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, who runs that unit, has got a very good reputation with them and is drawing whatever he can from them. At the moment, there is no evidence that we are seeing any increase and no evidence that there will be any increase.

In Vancouver, having spoken to Bud both during and post the games, they did not actually see any increase. There was considerable concern that it was going to happen, but, again, it did not actually manifest itself. That does not mean that we are resting on our laurels. That is why we are still doing the work that we are in the east end to ensure that we understand what is going on over there. Yes, there has been an increase in a bit of sex worker activity around there, but this is a very large building site and, therefore, people may be attracted to it. In terms of trafficking, however, we have seen nothing relating to that.

Q 100

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Those are very much the conclusions that have been shared with me by the various NGOs, and there are two important points. One is that we do not want to create a problem, or appear to create a problem, for which there is not evidence. Also, it was the level of vigilance, and the anticipation that there could be a problem, that meant that Vancouver passed off in the way that it did. Of course we hope that our games also will.

Chris Allison: To reinforce that, this has been talked about in a number of areas, and the media regularly bring it up, and we are at pains to explain it. What we do not want to do is create that unnecessary fear of crime. Equally, we do not want to ignore it if it is starting to happen. That is why I am reassured that the work that has been done in that area by SCD9—one of the specialist crime departments—is keeping that monitoring going, to make sure that something does not come up on the wire that we are not aware of.

However, I want to put it down that there is no evidence of an increase at the current time—certainly, there has not been an increase. Lots of the research that we have done has shown that this has been talked about in many previous games, but we have been unable to find the evidence of it. It is one of those myths that seems to have built up and everybody talks about it, and we are trying to put it back into its right place, so that we do not create fear.

Q 101

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

A final question on touting, and on Chris Allison’s assessment of the threshold at which the level of fine becomes a deterrent to those who want to get involved in this serious criminal activity. Can we provide any protection at all against fraudulent internet sites?

Chris Allison: Our assessment is that the increase from £5,000 to £20,000 is an appropriate increase. If we are talking about an organised crime group, and we arrest five of them, and the courts on conviction choose to impose the maximum fine, that is £100,000 between  the five of them. We think that is a significant deterrent, given that we are going very public, and that we will use every other piece of legislation that is available to us. If we have evidence that enables us to seize money under the Proceeds of Crime Act, then we will make applications to court to do that as well. Therefore, this is one of a number of measures that we are using. We are saying to criminals: “The fine is going up, we are targeting you. We are actively targeting you as touts between now and the games time.” We are targeting them at football events, because we know it is the same people who do it, and it is also an offence at football events. They get to know that the police service are looking at them, and that we are using all the legislation that is available to us. In our view it is an appropriate increase, it acts as an appropriate deterrent, and anecdotally, we are already hearing from the people we are dealing with that it is working for them.

There will be those—because there is massive money to be made here—who want to try to do something about it. The Operation Podium team has been working very closely for some time with LOCOG on how to reduce the opportunities for people to be scammed by the internet. We regularly trawl the internet for false domains, and for people who are offering tickets for sale, and we will continue to do so. Wherever we can, we will work with the service providers to take those internet sites down. A key message to the public—we are supported by Seb Coe and LOCOG and others here—is that you only get a ticket by going to the authorised site, the LOCOG website. If you think you have found a miracle website somewhere where you can get the final Olympic ticket for only £10, you are being ripped off. Do not believe that something is a free lunch, because it is not, it is a rip-off. This is about an education programme, and that is why we are doing lots of media jointly with LOCOG about it.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Colleagues, I know those exchanges were a bit wide of the Bill, but I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. This session lasts until 5.30 pm, and I want to call everyone, so I would like everyone who wants to ask a question to bear that in mind.

Q 102

Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Conservative, Finchley and Golders Green

Back on to ticket touting. You described a scrum of ticket touts, which seemed to be dealt with by a scrum of police officers. What percentage of outer London boroughs’ resources will be taken from the other boroughs, and drafted in to Olympic work?

Chris Allison: We are still working our way through the plans. At the moment, for London we are talking about a policing operation of about 9,000 police officers on peak days. If we put that into context, at Notting Hill carnival—which is the biggest policing operation we normally do—on the Sunday we deploy 5,000 police officers, and on the Monday we deploy 6,000 officers. Any major event in London always requires all the boroughs to provide a percentage of aid. But there is a recognition that the Met cannot deliver that alone. So during 2012, we will be calling on something called mutual aid, with colleagues from across the country. As we work through our plans, we are working extremely closely with Ian McPherson, the assistant commissioner from territorial policing, to make sure that he can still deliver the business as usual that is required by communities  across London. Therefore, anything that he does not need we can use and anything we require above that we get from mutual aid. On the percentages, we are talking in the region of a 2% potential impact on the average borough over a whole year—the 2012 year—because we will spread out the impact by reducing annual leave, reducing days off and cancelling training.

Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Conservative, Finchley and Golders Green

To press home the matter, are you saying that the outer London boroughs—

Chris Allison: All the boroughs.

Q 103

Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Conservative, Finchley and Golders Green

I appreciate that it is nicely equalised across the year as a percentage but, during the 30 days of the Olympic period, what percentage will the boroughs see their normal police operation officers reduced by?

Chris Allison: I cannot give you the exact figures. Part of the reason for that is the levers that we are going pull to reduce the impact. By pulling a lever and saying that in an average summer we may have 10% of our officers on annual leave and, during the 17-day period of the Olympic games, the maximum we will allow is 7%, that immediately adds an extra 3% or 4% to your work force that you would not normally have during that period. The same with training and weekly leave. Those are the sorts of levers we will pull.

It is not just the outer boroughs; every borough across London will be impacted. We will use something called the public order aid formula, which is the formula they have used on a daily basis to manage every big event in London. If you think about the student protests towards the back end of last year, the protest on 9 December used in the region of 3,600 police officers. The royal wedding just a few weeks ago required 5,500 police officers to be deployed. Each borough has a number of officers allocated to it. As you will be aware, each borough is a different size, but we take the same percentage from each borough, so that the impact on each borough is exactly the same when we pull together major events. We try to ensure that no one borough is more affected than any other borough as a result of the central London major events that we have to deal with.

Q 104

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

As hon. Members will know, the whole area of ticket touting is a passion of mine. Specifically with regard to the Olympics, I would like to tease out of you some answers that I hope will be helpful in considering the wider issues surrounding ticket touting. In your opinion, who are the potential touts? You say that Operation Podium has already seen some of those touts arrested. Are they people who have just set up in business with an eye on the Olympics or are they already criminal organised gangs? I will leave you to answer that first.

Chris Allison: There clearly will be opportunists looking to make a quick buck who will manage to get two or three tickets for themselves and think, “I can sell this ticket for twice the face value by turning up.” You may see that at a range of sporting events. There are those who are just selling off a spare ticket at face value, and there are those who will try to double or treble the price.

Our bigger worry and what we will certainly see with the Olympics is the organised criminal networks working this. Certainly, the people who are making large amounts of money off the back of events up and down the  country—anything from a music event to a sporting event—are involved in serious and organised criminality. Some organised criminal networks dabble in a number of things. It is not just touting; they are also involved in counterfeiting wherever they can. If you imagine that you have a market where it is seen as acceptable that you can be outside a place selling tickets at £100 when they are only worth £10, people will quite easily put counterfeit tickets there as well. Because people expect to pay that amount, they will not realise the difference between a real ticket and a counterfeit ticket.

There is lots of money to be made by these organised criminal networks. They recognise the demand for tickets. I have no doubt that the 9 million tickets for the Olympics will be significantly oversubscribed, especially for the major events. As a result, ticket touts will look to make many, many thousands of pounds on each ticket if they possibly can. There will be a network behind them. I want to create an environment in which it is not possible for those touts to operate on the ground. If it were not possible to operate on the ground, it would be harder for them, first, to make the money that they should be making and, secondly, to sell the counterfeit tickets. We must again, through our publicity, get the message out to the general public not to buy a ticket for which they are paying over the odds because there is a good chance that it is a counterfeit ticket and, secondly, not to go to any website apart from the authorised websites because, again, they are likely to be ripped off. Hopefully, we will then save everyone.

I am talking about the UK’s reputation. Many people from throughout the world will go on to any internet site and think, “Oh, this is my ticket. Not only does it get me entry to the 100 metres final, but it gives me five nights at the Savoy for £220.” They will buy it, come here and clearly get none of it. That will damage our reputation, so our job is to make sure that it does not happen. I see the major threat from serious and organised criminality, because such people see that they are easily into seven figures and it is money that they will then use for other illegal acts.

Q 105

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

So you have evidence that serious and organised criminality already exists with regard to other major events. I am not talking about the Olympics.

Chris Allison: Yes. We have already got that. The Operation Podium team already has a number. I will not go into it here, but I had a briefing on Monday morning about some of the activities. We have already got some ongoing operations linking organised criminal networks into general ticket touting and already into some consideration of Olympic ticket touting. We are already following up on that.

Q 106

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

Without giving away anything operational, what are the other live and sporting events in which you are aware of serious organised criminality at the moment?

Chris Allison: Tickets touts, and therefore by extension the organised criminal networks, will go to any event where they think that they can make a fast buck. So any event that is oversubscribed—more demand than supply—is opportunity for them to make money, and people will make money off it.

Q 107

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

This is the small fry? You are talking about the big ones.

Chris Allison: Many of the people down in the small fry are actually linked to organised criminal networks. I am talking about sporting events.

Q 108

Chris Allison: Yes, any music event that has no subscribed group. You go to Wembley, you go to the 02 and you will see those people selling tickets for over-inflated prices. You cannot be guaranteed that you are getting the real ticket.

Q 109

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

So in your humble and very expert opinion—

Chris Allison: Not expert.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

Would you see merit in extending such legislation to other events?

Chris Allison: I have to be careful because I am not an expert in this area. We are seeing organised criminal networks doing this and making money out of it.

Q 110

Chris Allison: I could not; I would not want to.

Q 111

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

I have heard an estimate of £1 billion. Would that be far off the mark?

Chris Allison: I could not give you anything. I do not know the detail. I would have to get a colleague to give an answer.

Q 112

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

I will bring my remarks back to the Bill.

The question of selling tickets to family and friends at face value came up on Second Reading. An exchange network will be set up next year through which people can sell their tickets back so that they can be sold on to people at face value, which I totally support—I think that we should have such a system across the board for everything. People will be allowed to sell at face value to family and friends, but do you think that that will be open to abuse?

Chris Allison: There is a potential for that. Through the Bill and the amendments, we are focusing on sale in the open and people doing it as a business. This is not designed to stop my wife or daughter who happens to get a ticket but then does not want to use it from selling it at face value to a friend of theirs. It is not designed for that.

Q 113

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

How can you be sure that they will sell it at face value?

Chris Allison: I cannot be sure about exactly what will happen. My worry is predominantly about what we have seen elsewhere in the world and what we see day to day in the country. We have to focus our activity on where the most harm is: the organised criminal networks that are, in effect, ripping off completely innocent individuals for large amounts of money and perhaps giving them a ticket that is not a real ticket. I think that the Bill gives us powers to do that in a way that we have not been able to do before.

Q 114

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

And you feel that the level of £20,000 will be sufficient to deter.

Chris Allison: It is a proportionate amount. The increase is in parallel with the other increases and fines in and around the Bill, and it is already having some impact. However much you make that fine, there will always be those who believe that they can get around it in some way and will take the risk. My job, and that of the Operation Podium team and all the officers, will be to deal with those people who take the risk.

Q 115

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education)

Joe Cohen from Seatwave, which is a site that sells secondary tickets, has said:

“So if anyone has a 100 meter final ticket to sell, they are going to sell it on the black market. They are not going to sell it for 750 pounds if it’s worth 5,000 pounds. The tickets will find a buyer who is willing to pay the market price, regardless of what Locog wishes to do.”

If someone can sell a ticket for £5,000 and get away with it, when the limit on the fine is £20,000, that might seem like a gamble that they wish to take. You mentioned the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and we have tabled a probing amendment around that legislation. Would it be helpful to have the flexibility to use that legislation set out in the Bill, or is it unnecessary?

Chris Allison: It is not necessary—we already have that power if they have acted unlawfully. The 2002 Act allows us to make an application to court to seize money that has been gained unlawfully. If I arrest an Olympic ticket tout for having done just that—receiving £5,000 for a £750 ticket out in the open—and I can prove that he has sold another 20 tickets, each at that value, as well as asking the court to impose the maximum fine—that is a matter for the court—we will also gun for all that money under the Proceeds of Crime Act. We are saying very publicly to these people, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to come for you.”

Q 116

Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth

Mr Allison, thank you for your detailed responses. I was also going to ask about whether the £20,000 for ticket touting was enough, but you have confirmed that, with all the other legislation available for you to use, you think that that will suffice.

I shall ask two quick questions, given that others probably want to speak. First, on terrorism, do you think that there may be an increased threat and, if so, is the Bill sufficient to ensure that we are covered? It might be that our current measures for terrorism are sufficient.

Secondly, in terms of traffic and road usage, and the enforcement of traffic conventions—the Metropolitan police tend to get pulled into that—is the Bill sufficient to support that over the Olympic time period?

Chris Allison: May I cover the terrorism point first? We have been planning our response to the Olympics on the basis of a severe threat from terrorism. Sadly, as I said before, I do not believe that there will be an outbreak of world peace between now and the games. It would be foolish if we did not plan at that severe threat level—that is the level against which we are policing the capital today. All our plans are there. We deliver current events against that severe threat—the royal wedding was delivered against that sort of threat level—and I am satisfied that, at the moment, we have the necessary powers that we need.

Obviously we are still working through our policing plans and the operations. There are 438 days before the start of the games—that number goes down very quickly—and we are still working our way through and making sure that we have sufficient asset in the right place. We are constantly reviewing the terrorist attack methodologies across the world to ensure that our plans deal with those methodologies. It is something that we are going to keep an eye on. We clearly have to because of the growth in what is sadly happening in Northern Ireland at the moment, which my colleagues in the Police Service of Northern Ireland are having to deal with on a daily basis. Thankfully, we always considered Irish attack methodologies in all our plans, so that has already been built in. I suppose what I am saying is that we are not resting on our laurels—we cannot afford to do that. My job is to make sure we deliver a safe and secure games, and that is what we are going to do.

On road use, I am glad that you said that we get drawn into it—it is the responsibility of others. I know that a lot of work is being done by the ODA transport team and Transport for London. There are significant challenges there, as the Committee talked about with TfL earlier. Peter Hendy has taken on the role of delivering that side, and if anyone can deliver it, he can.

We are supportive of what is in the Bill. There are two key bits to ensuring that this works. One is about ensuring that the public messaging is right about everything: not only about roads, but about what you should do, what transport you should use, what you should carry and what you should look out for. A lot of work is being done across all the domains, including locally and with TfL, to try to ensure that those general messages are right. The other bit is ensuring that there is swift compliance activity so that people understand that if they choose to break the law, they will know swiftly that they have to deal with the penalty for it. The decision on what level that will be is being made by the Secretary of State.

Hopefully, that will be sufficient in itself so that an individual says, “I know not only that I will get caught, but that I will get caught swiftly,” and feels that there is a deterrent. We cannot afford to have a whole load of fixed penalty notices appearing on people’s doorsteps in October 2012 that tell them that they went on the Olympic road network. If that happens, we will not ensure compliance at the time. People need to understand that the system will be in place and will be working.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Mr Allison has skilfully brought us back to the Bill. When colleagues ask questions, I wonder whether they can make them a tiny bit relevant to the Bill.

Q 117

Photo of Lisa Nandy Lisa Nandy Labour, Wigan

Mr Allison, you have made the good case that raising the penalty for ticket touting would act as a deterrent for not only ticket touting, but other forms of organised crime, such as counterfeiting. For other organised criminal offences that are not so obviously linked to ticket touting—such as trafficking, about which you said that the link was less clear—are there any other powers that would be useful when you come into contact with these offences that are not currently in legislation?

Chris Allison: I have a list—no. It is important to say that there is no evidence that the games are encouraging trafficking, although we are monitoring it, as I said to  Tessa Jowell earlier. There has been a lot said about there being a massive increase in trafficking with previous Olympics. After doing the research, we cannot find any evidence for that, but clearly if it were happening, SOCA would get a grip of it and we would want to target it.

On general serious and organised crime, our focus since Podium has been set up has been predominantly around fraud and the stuff there might be in and around construction. We worked closely with the ODA to, whenever possible, design out the crime by putting measures in place. Crime prevention is better than chasing the people who have done it.

Am I sitting here saying, “I need this power, this power and this power?” No, I am not. To be honest, quite often the more powers there are, the more complicated and challenging it gets for us. We have the powers we need at present to be able to deliver this. I am relying heavily on my colleagues and Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick’s colleagues within specialist crime to assist me in dealing with that end of the market. At the moment, we are satisfied that we have what we need.

Q 118

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath

I hope that I speak for all members of the Committee when I ask you to pass on our congratulations and thanks to the Operation Podium team, who have done a fabulous job. I am sure they have done more than we know about. The Bill states that we will raise the fine from £5,000 to £20,000. In response to other questions, you have already said that that is appropriate and proportionate. On Thursday, we will consider an amendment that would raise it to the much higher figure of £50,000. Is that inappropriate and disproportionate? Please comment.

Chris Allison: I do not think it is necessary; I think it is inappropriate and disproportionate. The £20,000 increase is sufficient to achieve what we want to achieve. On the briefing that I have had, moving it to £50,000 brings with it other challenges, because it potentially moves the matter out of the magistrates court and up to the Crown court. There might be challenges around that, and I am satisfied that for the purposes for which I think it is required, the £20,000 fine is sufficient to act as a deterrent.

Q 119

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Let me deal with ticket touting first. I attend sporting events every week and I run the gauntlet of the ticket touts. When I get home to my normal station at Wembley Park, if there is a concert on at the arena or the stadium, I run the gauntlet of ticket touts, even though I have no interest in attending the event. What will be different about the Olympics and how you will police it, because all that takes place when the police are within yards of the touts?

Chris Allison: For the vast majority of events there is no legislation. The only legislation that enables us to take action against ticket touts is that relating to football, and that is because of the segregation requirements. History tells us that if you do not segregate the crowd, problems will occur. I am aware that although we have powers covering football, there are still ticket touts operating at football matches. Our goal at the moment, recognising that we have the games coming, is to use those football matches to start enforcing the messages whenever we possibly can.

What will be different at the time of the games? My hope is that the publicity we have generated, the pre-work that we have done and the commitment of the Operation Podium team who are working on this, and who I can target at this sort of activity, will have sent the very clear message to these individuals that if they come out on the streets near an Olympic venue, there will be police officers out there in significant numbers who will take action against them, so there is a massive risk for them because we will catch them and go for the maximum fine. Hopefully, the courts will support us and we will use the Proceeds of Crime Act, so there is a combination of points. I think I said in my introduction that this is about putting the fear back on to them. I then have to back that up with words, and I have to make sure that the officers are properly briefed, which will be part and parcel of the activity in which we will engage with all the officers who come from across the country into feeding, muster and briefing points every day. The key activities will be briefed to them.

One of the things that we will be targeting is ticket touting. If we see a ticket tout, we will want them arrested. This will be a significant focus for us because, as I said in my opening, they make the place look unlawful and like it is not the place that we want it to be. What do I want the Olympics to be from a safety and security point of view? I want it to be a fantastic sporting event where the focus should be on the sport and spectators. The focus should be not on the security operation or the criminals who are getting in the way of people enjoying the sport. That is the briefing that I will give to my officers, and that briefing will hopefully deliver what we want.

Q 120

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

In the next football season, can we look forward to police officers actually taking action against touts on the streets right outside the grounds in the way that you are describing as a means of starting to enforce this whole process?

Chris Allison: Can I give you a guarantee that no touts will operate outside any football stadium in London or across the country? No, I cannot. However, I can say that I am asking my colleagues up and down the country—certainly in London—to do whatever they can to send out the message that touting in certain circumstances is unlawful. Can we start taking action now? Again, there are competing pressures. On some occasions, a police officer will not take action against an individual tout because they have to deal with something else—I have to recognise that. However, certainly in relation to the activity in which we are engaged through Podium, and in which we will be engaged during games time, there will be significant activity around ticket touts.

Q 121

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

On a related subject, no doubt you will be pleased about the proposals in the Bill to relieve you of the responsibility of dealing with seized goods. However, one of the concerns raised this morning was that organised crime might become involved in counterfeiting goods, and might organise activity across London selling illegal or illicit goods that could need to be seized by trading standards officers or whoever is doing enforcement. How will the police get involved in that process as a result of the changes that are proposed?

Chris Allison: The legislative changes, as I understand them, allow local trading standards and police officers to act against that. The Podium team certainly intends  to look at all parts of serious and organised crime, whether that is counterfeiting tickets or counterfeiting goods. Whenever we have a link, the Podium team—it is growing as we run closer to the games—will target. We have very good links with trading standards teams across London and we will work closely with them. When we can establish a link between something that is happening on the street and the serious and organised criminal network, the Podium team will become involved and do the further investigation.

These things will not be dealt with in splendid isolation. When we can get that link, it is all about intelligence and information sharing. I think that that is why the Podium team has been so successful recently. That is where I think we can make a difference. We will not just leave things to trading standards. We will not walk away and say, “It’s down to you.” When there is a clear link with serious and organised crime, we will follow those people up.

Q 122

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

One of the concerns aired this morning involved the resources available to deal with counterfeit goods and illicit trading. Given all the other competing pressures on the police force, where will the priority be? One of my concerns is that we will see people setting up street stalls outside tube stations across London and selling illicit goods, which might need prompt action to prevent people from being ripped off. Police resources will be stretched. What assurance can you give us that resources will be available to deal with that?

Chris Allison: I cannot, and it would be inappropriate for me to give you a guarantee that we will be able to deal with every single stall set up across London. That is why we welcome the fact that others—trading standards, which is expert in dealing with that sort of activity day in, day out, on Oxford street and places like that—can take on that burden. You are entirely right that the police service will be very stretched in 2012. There are not only the Olympic events but the parallel events that people want to put on in place. If we can spread the enforcement burden on to others who are good at doing it and used to doing it, we welcome that.

Clearly, where there is top-end crime and criminality, I would look to deploy the Podium team, but again, there is finite resource. I do not have infinite resource. We still have to deliver policing as usual not only to London, but across the country. I cannot call on all 144,000 police officers to come here. We are limited in the numbers that we can get. We will do the best that we possibly can with our resources; we will target them in the right places; we will make sure that we make the most impact with what we have; and we will do it with partner agencies. That is what I welcome about the Bill. It will allow partner agencies to take action. Otherwise, we would be too stretched to do it on our own.

Q 123

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Before we finish this session, did any other colleagues want to ask questions? If there are no further questions, Mr Allison, do you think that the Committee has covered every possibility in terms of the evidence that you can share with us? Do you want to make any final remarks?

Chris Allison: Everything and more, sir. Thank you.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

On behalf of the Committee, thank you very much for the time that you have spent with us and the evidence that you have given us.