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!

"The whole point of dogs is to scare people rigid"

Don't set dogs on criminals with allergies, police told
Police dog handlers will have to consider whether criminals have allergies or a fear of dogs before conducting searches in what has been described as the latest example of "namby pamby" policing.

By Gordon Rayner in the Telegraph

Guidelines being drawn up by senior officers will tell dog handlers they should "avoid offending" people with phobias of animals when dogs are used in drug raids and other investigations.
The rules have been produced amid fears that suspects with medical conditions triggered by the presence of dogs, such as asthma, may file costly compensation claims against the police if they suffer an allergy or panic attack during a police raid.
Dog handlers have also been told to take "cultural sensitivities" into account, though reports that dogs would be required to wear specially-designed boots on their paws during searches of mosques and Muslim homes have been flatly denied.
The plans have been ridiculed in the respected force magazine Police Review, with one columnist citing it as the latest diktat from "the polite police".
The anonymous sergeant writes: "The traditional shout of 'stand still or I'll set the dog on you' will presumably have to become 'excuse me, my police dog is quite hairy and might cause alarm as he sinks his fangs into his right thigh. Is that all right with you?'
"The whole point of police dogs is to frighten people rigid, at least those who have just committed a crime and would otherwise make a clean getaway. They should have considered the mental trauma and possible allergic reaction caused by 60lbs of foaming Alsatian clamping its teeth to their extremities before embarking on their criminal escapade."
A serving dog handler, who asked not to be named, said: "I have never heard anything so ridiculous. What's next? Sparing people custody because they have a fear of enclosed spaces?
"This is just another example of namby pamby policing laid down by people who haven't been on the beat in years."
PC Mike Dermody, a former dog handler with Greater Manchester Police, was among those dismissing the need for guidelines, saying: "I have never encountered an incident where we have offended someone. If there is a person with an allergy, we will put them in one room while we search the rest of the house."
And PC David Heaps, a dog handling trainer at Derbyshire Constabulary, said dog handlers were already "mindful not to cause offence".
The controversy arose after Peter Vaughan, the Association of Chief Police Officers' adviser on dogs, said: "The draft guidelines outline a general principle that forces should consider what steps can be taken to avoid offending people during operations.
"This might include different categories of people such as those with a fear of dogs, for example or asthma sufferers who may be sensitive to dog hair."
Mr Vaughan, deputy chief constable of South Wales Police, insisted, however, that "in all operations effective policing will take primacy", meaning dog handlers would not have to take possible allergies into account when tackling violent criminals, for example.