A Yorkshire-based CCTV installation company says that it’s vital that businesses stick to the letter of the law with their camera systems, not only for their protection of their staff and property, but also for anybody who comes onto their premises, whether with good or foul intent.
“Some companies think they can skip their Data Protection Act responsibilities,” says CCTV.co.uk spokesperson Jonathan Ratcliffe, “But the sad fact is that their lack of compliance will almost certainly come to light the second they try to use camera footage for a prosecution. And that evidence could even be thrown out of court.”
According to Ratcliffe, the most recent case is a prosecution brought by the ICO against a Coventry-based business which was using a non-registered CCTV system. The case was only brought to court after the owner repeatedly ignored reminder letters to register their premises. The owner told magistrates that she thought the ICO’s reminder letters were ‘spam’. Local magistrates fined the owner of the company over £650, including court costs.
CCTV brings responsibility through technology says Jonathan Ratcliffe, “When your system is ‘evidence-ready’ with well-serviced cameras in the right locations providing date-stamped footage, it’s almost impossible for a suspect to evade identification,” he says.
Legally-produced camera footage has been responsible for thousands of convictions and millions of pounds of saving to British businesses, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that camera systems have literally saved both jobs and lives. “But they have to be used responsibly,” says Ratcliffe.
It’s when companies evade their legal responsibilities that they could find themselves in trouble, and even then the ICO does its best to avoid court, preferring to advise companies as a first resort. “It’s all very simple,” says Ratcliffe, “If you record images of people as part of your business activities, then you must register."
“And there’s no defence in claiming ignorance of the law – we advise all our commercial clients to get their registration in order before they switch on their cameras,” he says.
Business owners need to ensure that they comply with a list of requirements drawn up by the ICO.
Most domestic CCTV systems do not fall under the Data Protection Act. However, if recordings include people outside of a property (such as on a road, path, or even on a neighbour’s property), then registration may still be necessary.
Jonathan Ratcliffe says that in a society when we are recorded more than ever before, the law exists to ensure that your legal day-to-day comings-and-goings remain private. And that means everybody using a camera system agreeing to the same set of standards. “CCTV is a beneficial tool for any company, but you have to play by the rules. So, if your business collects data, make sure you’re onside. Don’t think you can dodge the law.” He concludes.