What is Headspace?

Headspace is Amber Marks's satirical account of her research into the policing of smell - she uses developments in smell research as an allegory for the surveillance society. Amber was working as a barrister when she started spotting sniffer dogs on her travels to courts in different parts of the country. Disturbed by the implications for civil liberties (who needs a warrant when you've got a dog) and cynical about the supposed infallibility of canine intelligence (barking up the wrong knee), Amber started researching the phenomenon. To her amazement she discovered that across the world, people are being convicted on the word of a dog alone - despite the science of smell (the fascinating history and advances of which are all included in this book) being very poorly understood. As a legal expert on canine evidence, Amber is invited to a Ministry of Defence conference where the security applications of mice, moths, salmon and plants are discussed. That's when Amber's research journey really begins.

Q & A with Amber:

Why did you call the book "Headspace"?

Quite a lot in the book is about the importance of pscyhological privacy to human liberty and autonomy. Headspace - in 1960s jargon- means psychological privacy, the cognitive shed required for the development of an individual personality. When an entomologist told me that 'headspace' is also the technical term for the area surrounding a subject in which their smell can be detected and analysed - I knew it had to be the title of my book.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I enjoyed everything about it. I enjoyed befriending security agents, police officers and scientists (they have all taken the fun I poke at their research in good humour). I enjoyed researching all the novels relating to the sense of smell (Perfume, Jitterbug Perfume, Brave New World, Oryx And Crake and millions of others) and learning about the science of smell. It was a great excuse to read Arthur Koestler's Ghost in the Machine and learn about bee brains and the manipulation of instinctive behaviour.

What is Dogwatch?

Dogwatch is the name of a secret organisation in Amber's book. It monitors potential threats to Headspace and seeks to inform people of their rights in these confusing times. It is presently focused on developments in surveillance, forensic science, less than lethal weapons, the militarisation of biology and the science of smell. Membership is easy- just send your findings to Amber and automatically become a member!

Go Ahead to Clean your PNC Record

Ruling over crime records database
Press Assoc. - Tuesday, July 22 10:59 am
Police could be forced to remove thousands of criminal records from the national database after a landmark ruling on the holding of personal details.

The Information Tribunal on Monday dismissed appeals from five police forces which were ordered to delete old criminal convictions from the Police National Computer.

The tribunal ruled that keeping the records was in breach of the Data Protection Act, which says personal information should not be kept for longer than necessary.

Police fear the ruling could have "far-reaching implications" for the holding of data.

It could open the door to thousands of people convicted of minor offences when young to apply to have their criminal record removed. Under current policy, criminal records remain on the computer for up to 100 years.

One record held by Humberside Police related to the theft of a 99p packet of meat in 1984. The person involved, who was under 18 at the time, was fined £15.

Another record held by West Midlands Police referred to a theft which took place more than 25 years ago, for which the individual was fined £25. And a third record held by Staffordshire Police related to someone under 14 who was cautioned for a minor assault.

The other records were held by the police forces of Northumbria and Greater Manchester.

The tribunal upheld the ruling of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in November that the holding of the records did not comply with the Data Protection Act.

The Act says personal information must be relevant, up-to-date, and not excessive