30 January 2018

CCTV and the Human Rights Act: What you need to know

CCTV is everywhere in the UK. Although accurate figures are hard to come by, some reports have estimated there to be almost six million cameras watching the population – roughly one for every 11 people. It’s not difficult to see why, as a security measure, CCTV is so popular: it’s cost-effective and it works. But the rapid spread of surveillance over the past ten years has caused many members of the public to question their rights to privacy. For any business considering CCTV, then, and those using it already, it’s crucial to understand the legal implications. And namely, how it fits within the Human Rights Act 1998.

Article 8 – A right to privacy

The piece of legislation with the biggest impact on CCTV use in the UK is Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which was introduced in 2000 and reads: Right to respect for private and family life

1.      Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2.      There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

It’s fair to say these points above are vague, so while they exist to benefit all of us on an individual level, it’s understandably hard for businesses to know exactly what they can and can’t do. It will help, however, to consider the following principles before implementing a CCTV system.

Proportionality

Is or would your use of CCTV be proportionate to the security threat posed to yourself, your staff and members of the public? Consider how many cameras you need to install, and where they’re placed on the premises – and even think about whether they’re necessary at all.

Legality

Although Article 8 is the most noteworthy part of the Human Rights Act when it comes to CCTV, there are other guidelines to follow. All operators should be fully aware of and signed up to the government’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (June 2013), for example. It covers human rights matters as well as data protection, the PACE Act 1984 and the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1986.

Accountability

You’re fully accountable for your use of CCTV, so be sure to keep accurate and comprehensive records of action – including any factors that have influenced decisions. Your monitoring should be open to scrutiny at all times. Make it clear to staff, members of the public and anyone else who may be affected that they’re being monitored for appropriate reasons, and that you’re aware of and adhering to the relevant legislation and codes of practice.

Necessity

Ask yourself once again, is your use of CCTV justified? Cameras can be extremely effective in preventing crime and protecting people, but there may be other measures that better suit your situation and don’t require you to monitor in this way. Think about access control, for example. It’s all about minimising the effect you have on people’s privacy wherever and whenever possible.

We’re here to help

We’ve been supplying high-spec, effective security solutions to businesses of all kinds and sizes for more than 30 years now, and we’re experts in CCTV. If you need help choosing the right system, or have questions about how best to use CCTV within your organisation, get in touch today.