Hunted - how the fugitives were hunted

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Hunted is a joint commission between Formats and Documentaries, with Dom Bird and Amy Flanagan overseeing the project at the channel. The thrilling series explores the reach of the state’s surveillance powers by challenging ordinary British people to see if they can outwit and outrun a team of expert professional hunters.

Months of detailed research went into making the series. Known monitoring methods used by the state, such as data mining and open source intelligence were painstakingly researched alongside other key sources of information such as phone cell tower locations and ANPR camera proliferation.

Over 800 Freedom of Information requests were submitted to establish the location of state owned CCTV cameras positioned throughout the UK mainland. When real footage couldn’t be obtained, our cameras captured footage which would have been available to the state and was stored on a central database (Gold Command) until requested by the hunters.

A team of expert hunters from police force, military and professional intelligence backgrounds were gathered and their expertise helped to shape how the programme could be made. The hunters utilised the same methods of surveillance and tracking employed by the state where legally possible, including open source intelligence and interrogating friends and family. Permission was granted so that other methods, such as monitoring bank records and undertaking home searches could also be undertaken as they would in real life. Where the Hunters did not legally have access to those powers, the powers have been closely and carefully replicated.

In charge of making sure the production process accurately matched real life was former Head of Covert Operations for the Met Police, Kevin O’Leary. Kevin spent 19 years in the Met working in various detective roles across the CID, central squads, organised crime intelligence unit and child protection. Between 2002-2010 he was responsible for all specialist crime undercover operatives and operations for the Met Police. He oversaw countless investigations and designed and implemented a training programme for covert operations for all UK law enforcement agencies.

In 2010 Kevin was appointed national project manager for serious and organised crime operations for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, responsible for all detective and forensic operational teams and commanding all crime and intelligence assets. Throughout the Games he led 500 staff in managing large volumes of incidents, information and intelligence in order to address significant threats. He went on to be appointed Head of Crime and Intelligence at the Notting Hill Carnival – the largest public event outside of the Olympics – in 2012 and 2013.

Kevin’s role was in ‘Gold Command’. He ensured that all of the information being requested and gathered by the hunters matched the powers that would be available to them in real life, and in the right time frame. Even the day to day team working with the hunters were separate from the team working with the fugitives to prevent information passing between the groups.