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Security Cameras and Using Them within the Law

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 5 Dec 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Security Cameras law crime criminal

Security cameras are a popular tool in the battle against crime. Businesses, government departments and local authorities have been using these cameras for years – but they are now becoming increasingly popular with householders. One large supplier of security cameras and related equipment says that sales of these products have increased by 265% in the last five years. Cameras can serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they have a deterrent effect, as wrong-doers are likely to avoid areas where they may be caught on camera. Secondly, film footage of a crime being committed can help to ensure that the criminal is convicted – as has happened in several recent high-profile cases.

Home Security Surveillance

Most security cameras used in the home will be CCTV – or closed circuit television cameras. This means that the images captured are only broadcast within the security system itself and cannot be received by other transmitters and receivers. Modern CCTV cameras can be very compact and accurate, providing low key, comprehensive coverage and images which can clearly identify those being filmed. Most security cameras will have a facility to record the images they transmit. There are various different recording options available: video, DVD and storage straight to a personal computer.

Security Cameras and the Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) imposes strict rules on the use of security cameras themselves and the use of images of private individuals innocently going about their business. Section 36 of the DPA states that personal data – including video footage of an individual – captured only for limited domestic purposes is not covered by the restrictions of the DPA.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is an independent authority which reports directly to the UK parliament. It works to promote the protection of private information and access to public information. The Information Commissioner’s Office Code of Practice on the use of CCTV states that the use of security cameras for “limited household purposes”, including protecting an individual’s home from burglary, is NOT covered by the DPA - even if the camera captures images of streets or other areas near the home.

However, there is a widespread belief that the use of cameras is covered by the DPA if they capture images of people on property not belonging to the camera’s owner. Householders should bear in mind the use of the words “limited household purposes” – it is possible that some uses of CCTV may take them outside of this definition and bring them under the control of the DPA. For example, it may be that using a camera to snoop on a neighbour would not be exempt from the DPA restrictions.

Restrictions Imposed by the DPA

Where the use of cameras is covered by the DPA there are several requirements which have to be satisfied – these include:
  • Putting up clear signs to say that CCTV is in operation;
  • Only using the footage for the purpose for which it has been taken;
  • Only keeping footage for as long as it is needed;
  • Not releasing footage to third parties;
  • Keeping the footage safe.
If a camera has been set up to prevent crime the footage can be kept for as long as it is needed to detect and prosecute a crime, and can be passed to the police and other relevant authorities for this purpose.

The Human Rights Act

Under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1988 an individual has the right to respect for his private and family life, and of his home. It could well be that training a security camera on a neighbour’s front door would amount to a breach of this fundamental human right.

Cameras and Evidence

It is vital that cameras are installed in a way and place that complies with any legal restrictions. If they are not, any footage of a crime may not be usable as evidence at a subsequent trial. Criminal trials are subject to very rigorous rules on what is and is not allowed to be used as evidence against the accused. If evidence has been obtained in a way that is not legal it will almost certainly be disallowed by the judge presiding over the case.

The police advise all users of CCTV to take great care that they comply with any legal restrictions to prevent potentially vital evidence being rendered worthless. Due to the potential consequences, householders may be wise to err on the side of caution when operating CCTV from their home.

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[Add a Comment]
JC27 - Your Question:
Hi several houses in my street have had property vandalised and nails wedged under car wheels to deliberately cause punctures. I would like to fit a security camera pointing the length of my driveway but have a public footpath at the end of it. Would I be allowed to fit a camera if I can restrict it from recording the footpath?

Our Response:
Yes if it's just focused on your own driveway, there should be no issue with it.
ProtectingYourself - 6-Dec-16 @ 12:55 PM
Rach - Your Question:
My neighbour has hidden cameras on his flower hanging baskets at the front of the house 1 pointing into my yard and the other into the opposite neighbours garden. Wer do we stand legally in regards to him recording our properties and us without any notice or warning signs. I know he has the right to record him property for his own security purposes.

Our Response:
If you suspect he is recording anywhere/people other than on his property, call your local police (non emergency) or speak to your local police community support officer. They can take a look and ask him to move them if they feel it's an infringement of anyone's privacy.
ProtectingYourself - 6-Dec-16 @ 10:53 AM
Hi several houses in my street have had property vandalised and nails wedged under car wheels to deliberately cause punctures. I would like to fit a security camera pointing the length of my driveway but have a public footpath at the end of it. Would I be allowed to fit a camera if I can restrict it from recording the footpath?
JC27 - 5-Dec-16 @ 9:31 AM
My neighbour has hidden cameras on his flower hanging baskets at the front of the house 1 pointing into my yard and the other into the opposite neighbours garden. Wer do we stand legally in regards to him recording our properties and us without any notice or warning signs. I know he has the right to record him property for his own security purposes.
Rach - 3-Dec-16 @ 10:03 AM
Nassy - Your Question:
Ia it legal for a landlord to put cameras by enterance,in the hallway and upstairs?

Our Response:
If these are communal areas, yes a landlord can install CCTV but must inform users of those areas that it is in operation.
ProtectingYourself - 9-Nov-16 @ 9:58 AM
Ia it legal for a landlord to put cameras by enterance,in the hallway and upstairs?
Nassy - 8-Nov-16 @ 1:48 AM
DON'T LET DOMESTIC CCTV CAMERAS PRY ON YOU IN PUBLIC OR IN YOUR PRIVATE SPACES If anyone is concerned about the use of domestic CCTV cameras that are capturing your or your private property or even any inch of public property please do the following: 1) Got to the ICO website (google ICO) 2) Find the CONTACT US link at the bottom 3) Find email address that ends with @casework.ico.org 4) email that address with the details of how and where the domestic CCTV camera is breaching public or private areas It is their duty to assess and make sure all domestic CCTV cameras are following the new regulations. Good Luck! Legal Ed
Legal Ed - 19-Oct-16 @ 6:18 PM
Hi, I live in a house with a & b, upstairs and downstairs, I want to install cctv pointed at the main door before you enter into the communal hallway. Had a burglary recently and want to be more secured! Will that he allowed? It will record any 1 knocking at the door or entering and leaving
Bob smith - 18-Oct-16 @ 8:19 AM
Hi, I moved into my houselast year , had no problems until November 5th. When a group of lads school age I think start jumping into my fence from the passage way that is at the back and side of the house, breaking it, I was in my garage at the time so I ran after them. Called police but without CCTV pictures nothing could done. Since then I had kids damaging the fence more. But no CCTV no action tried the local school ,no again ,CCTV to prove who it was. No issues over the summer holidays but yes today the house next door had been broken into. They must had waited until most people where out to do it. So can I have CCTV that covers the entrance to the alley way and back section on the back of the garage. I need to protect my 3 year old and 5 five week age. Thank you
Qwerty1 - 16-Sep-16 @ 2:38 AM
Hey, Basically me and my older sister share a room facing the street...its not too bad but for about a year now my dad had took it upon himself to place a camera on the inside of my room looking out at the street. Im not sure if the camera has audio, i believe it can see into peoples windows which is or could be against the law. I hate it being in my room and feel as if its vialating my human rights as every time i attempt to remove it my dad puts it back and tells me off. He has no reason for it to be there or to spy on people like this. Any suggestions on what i can use against him to get it out of my room and into the front room?
Rose - 13-Aug-16 @ 7:21 PM
Fathead- Your Question:
I work in the care profession with teenagers, we have some two bedroom flats that we use as stand alone units. Are we allowed to install CCTV cameras

Our Response:
Where do you want to install the cameras? You can probably only install them in communal areas and may have to inform residents and visitors, together with a notice - check with your company's solicitor if you are unsure.
ProtectingYourself - 10-Aug-16 @ 10:16 AM
I work in the care profession with teenagers, we have some two bedroom flats that we use as stand alone units. Are we allowed to install CCTV cameras
Fathead - 8-Aug-16 @ 4:15 PM
I've been advised to install CCTV on my home as i am having stones repeatedly thrown at my windows etc by a local youth. Am I legally bound to display signs that denote CCTV is at work? As my fear is likely to escalate the behaviour or start attacking my car that has to be parked away from my house
Anon - 27-Jul-16 @ 8:56 AM
Hi, I work in a place where there are strict data security rules. There are areas which are restricted and cameras are not allowed at all. Even visitors have to leave their phones in a locker in order to enter the premises. My problem is this. I have been and I am being harassed by my boss and a few colleagues and this is really getting out of hand. I won't go in to detail about the harassment since this is not the forum to discuss such. For me to prove any of this, needless to say I need evidence. If I do wear a spy camera to record some of the abuse I receive, would it be admissible in court - bearing in mind that cameras are not allowed in certain areas of the business? Of course you may ask why I cannot simply record voice covertly - the thing is the type of mental abuse I receive is not just verbal. These are never done directly and I can only prove this with video footage. This has been going on for over two years now and I need to stop it as my name is being tarnished. Please help.
Theabused - 21-Jul-16 @ 8:12 PM
What about domestic abuse cases? Repeated coercive controlling behaviour often happens behind closed doors. Can evidence from Body Worn Cameras be admissible in criminal court?
DVA - 4-Jul-16 @ 5:34 PM
Sue - Your Question:
Can I use a personal body camera at work to protect myself against scammers as this has happened to me twice now or will I be breaking the law ?

Our Response:
This depends what your job is and whether the people you deal with would be aware that you are wearing the camera.
ProtectingYourself - 30-Jun-16 @ 12:05 PM
Can I use a personal body camera at work to protect myself against scammers as this has happened to me twice now or will I be breaking the law ?
Sue - 29-Jun-16 @ 12:28 AM
Von- Your Question:
HI im asking how we can find out were the cameras are located , my friends next door neighbor has cameras in his house and we are 100% sure hes got small cameras going through into my sisters bedroom and living room , as she heard them talking outside about all the things they had done in the bedroom , the only way they can see is by a camera and everything she had been talking about they was also repeated outside in their garden and they was laughing, His job is installing cameras and hes been bragging to a neighbor he can see everything in my sisters house , the neighbor told her bur not willing to get involved any more than that, How to we go about finding were the cameras are located and what can we do.. as we need proof please help

Our Response:
How could the neighbour have entered your property to install a camera? Surely you'd be able to see a camera in your own room? Maybe you should hire a security expert to check out your home if you're very concerned.
ProtectingYourself - 15-Jun-16 @ 9:59 AM
I live in a house converted into flats. I have ground floor flat with rear garden the upstairs neighbours have no acces to the garden. They have installed a camera in there window pointing directing into my garden where my son plays. Is this legal
Jones - 14-Jun-16 @ 7:50 PM
HI im asking how we can find out were the cameras are located , my friends next door neighbor has cameras in his house and we are 100% sure hes got small cameras going through into my sisters bedroom and living room , as she heard them talking outside about all the things they had done in the bedroom , the only way they can see is by a camera and everything she had been talking about they was also repeated outside in their garden and they was laughing, His job is installing cameras and hes been bragging to a neighbor he can see everything in my sisters house , the neighbor told her bur not willing to get involved any more than that, How to we go about finding were the cameras are located and what can we do ......... as we need proof please help
Von - 13-Jun-16 @ 11:50 AM
sincerus - Your Question:
I have a work unit on a private business compound. It has 'private property, no trespassing', no turning on the wall BEFORE you enter the compound. A house built on my landlords wall is being really nasty. He is 'effing' and blinding at the unit tenants, he is trying everything to get the businesses closed, as he doesnt like the view from his window. He has had noise nuisance complaints made to the Council investigated and the business concerned was given the all clear from the Council. Because that did not work, he is now taking photographs of the private land from his lounge window to try and stop vehicular movement. When that failed he now has a CCTV pointing out of his lounge window (which is his property boundary) directly into the work compound. Does he have permission to take photos or video footage of us going about our work without our permission, and does he have the right to have a CCTV set out of the window pointing directly into the compound? He has been reported to the Council for shouting abuse at the unit holders, can I get the CCTV equipment removed as it is not within the confines of his property, it is directed within the work compound, of which he has been banned due to harassment.

Our Response:
If you mention this to the police, they will go round and check it. If they consider it's infringing your privacy, he can be made to remove it, as he's already been banned due to harassment, there's a strong possibility they will do so.
ProtectingYourself - 7-Jun-16 @ 11:21 AM
I have a work unit on a private business compound. It has 'private property, no trespassing', no turning on the wall BEFORE you enter the compound. A house built on my landlords wall is being really nasty. He is 'effing' and blinding at the unit tenants, he is trying everything to get the businesses closed, as he doesnt like the view from his window. He has had noise nuisance complaints made to the Council investigated and the business concerned was given the all clear from the Council. Because that did not work, he is now taking photographs of the private land from his lounge window to try and stop vehicular movement. When that failed he now has a CCTV pointing out of his lounge window (which is his property boundary) directly into the work compound. Does he have permission to take photos or video footage of us going about our work without our permission, and does he have the right to have a CCTV set out of the window pointing directly into the compound?He has been reported to the Council for shouting abuse at the unit holders, can I get the CCTV equipment removed as it is not within the confines of his property, it is directed within the work compound, of which he has been banned due to harassment.
sincerus - 5-Jun-16 @ 3:11 PM
I think the police are in breach of the Pace act the must have authorisation from very high up and have reasonable ground to do what you say they are doing covert operation using hidden cameras
bluerobin - 10-May-16 @ 10:20 AM
I live in on a mobile home park whichis private land and we pay ground rent for the plot our homes are on had my car vandalised because the park ownerremoved some of the perimiter wall so I intallaled CCTV to cover my driveway and the hole in the wall as I have had permission from my neighbour opposite one camera also cover his back door the road between us he(the park owner) is arguing is his land and I canot have my camera on this am I allowed to have my camera on this piece of ground.another covers the hole in the wall again he is saying it is his land is it ok in law to film them especially the hole in he wall which captures any would be wrongdoer coming onto the park
bluerobin - 9-May-16 @ 5:30 PM
I've found two fiber optic cables hidden in my flat. The police have me under serveylance because they think I'm involved in drug supply ( I'm not .but know some old friends who probably are ) . what are my rights. Can I force the hand of the police. Or who ever placed the optical cables. One was burried in my sitting room wall. The other in the kitchen. The flat below me is legally ocupied by a policewoman. I E. She actually lives there..I think ! Though I have seen a maniquin positioned near the window to look like she was in while a man was in the flat...this has been happening for about 9 months. Possibly longer... I was involved with crime. But not for 13 years now. I'm 57 and to old now... Seems like the police don't believe people stop committing crime...
lambretta rider - 9-Apr-16 @ 10:07 PM
hi there i live in a small estate of 9 council bungarlows my next door nabour has got three small cameras in there front living room window one facing the road and the other is facing the property next door. the other is in the front bedroom window facing on to my propertyso when i come out of my front 1.5 meters i am on camera. is this an offence
cab - 5-Apr-16 @ 6:47 PM
How far can a neighbour have a visual view from a security camera
tomo - 2-Apr-16 @ 1:14 PM
Hi, I live in a small complex of 6 bungalows (privately owned and rented by one person). Today, I have noticed 3 CCTV cameras have been installed on top of a pole in my front garden (as well as other poles at other places), and one of the cameras is pointing down to my home. There is not one sign on the whole complex warning of the CCTV, nor did I see the cameras being installed. Where do I stand legally on this? Thank you
thesailorgirl - 27-Mar-16 @ 5:31 PM
I have been living in the house I now own for 32 years and throughout that time we have had very little trouble and brought up three lovely children who are now all adults, My daughter now lives in the same close with her husband and our two grand children, there are 10 houses in the close, now recently we have had a new neighbour moved in the police have been to the house at least 20 times in the past 6 weeks, our neighbour a taxi driver said that the family where made to move from their last house in the town due to the trouble their sons had caused, police where called last night due to the children "both early teens" had smashed the windows on a house in the adjacent close, my question is I have purchased a security system and want to know if there are any guide lines I can follow, I have purchased security cameras in operation stickers to display on windows and doors, am I limited to the bounderie of my property or can I record the full close, I want to record the top of the close where my sons car is parked and across the close to my daughters house.
spud - 20-Mar-16 @ 7:24 PM
Hi, I set up a cctv camera hidden in an alarm clock in my bedroom as my wife was beating me and i wanted evidence of this! I called the police had her arrested got the footage but it had not recorded to the sd carD I then told her im going to court for divorce etc, she then rang the police and had me arrested for 'voyersm' the camera was soley set up to capture her attackin me and as the camera did not work recording - it was only viewable live if that makes sense which i did not know as it was broken? What is the law on this as i am now on bail for 'voyersm' i explained what the camera was for but they took all my phones computer etc Cheers
Axel132 - 19-Mar-16 @ 4:11 PM
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