28th October 2015
What every Chief Executive needs to know about Surveillance Cameras
Interest in surveillance is at an all-time high. Only this week the draft Investigatory Powers Bill was published by the Government and it could mean that Councils will now face tightened surveillance laws. Therefore, it is important that Chief Executives and senior leaders at Local Authorities have a good knowledge and understanding of legislation covering surveillance.
Virtually all Local Authorities use CCTV in one form or another. These cameras are surveillance devices and how they are used already is already enshrined in legislation – the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
In March 2014, Tony Porter was appointed Surveillance Camera Commissioner by the Home Secretary. Tony is required to ensure that surveillance camera systems, such as CCTV and ANPR, comply with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.
Under the Act, Local Authorities are on a list of ‘relevant authorities’ (s.33 (5)) who must pay due regard to the Code. The Code sets out 12 guiding principles that provide a coherent and comprehensive framework to enable good and transparent decision-making that gives the public confidence cameras are used appropriately. Tony is responsible for helping Local Authorities comply with the Code.
It’s essential that, where Councils are using surveillance camera systems to monitor public space such as town centres, they meet the principles in the Code. If Local Authorities don’t have a good understanding of the CCTV they operate, it can lead to ineffective systems that aren’t efficient and don’t provide value for money.
Think about your own town centre scheme. Does your organisation know how many cameras they have, where they are, why they are there, if they work and if they are being operated within the legislative framework? And that is probably just one of the CCTV systems operated by your Authority.
It is also important to consider whether your schemes are set up as the result of a legitimate pressing need. Have you consulted the public and carried out privacy impact assessments, are the staff operating the scheme trained to the right level? These are just a few things for you to consider.
However, if your organisation is complying with the Code, then the answer to all of these should be yes. And by complying with the Code, you will also be in line with other legislation such as the Data Protection Act.
So, as Chief Executive it’s really important that you have the confidence that your CCTV systems are working within the legislative framework. If Local Authorities don’t have a good understanding of the CCTV they operate they can face financial, legal and reputational risk. As a senior leader, you’re ultimately responsible for ensuring that your systems comply with the 12 guiding principles which are set out in the Code.
We want you to know that there is help at hand. Tony is keen to work with Local Authorities to ensure that they all comply with the Code. Please do get in touch with Tony’s office if you would like to arrange a meeting, visit or for further information – firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tony Porter, Surveillance Camera Commissioner