Part 4 of the Home Office paper to the EU Parliament - "Liberty and Security - Striking the Right Balance" -
Closed Circuit TV
Closed Circuit TV
* CCTV is widespread and has little impact on the daily lives of citizens. However, it can prove critical in identifying criminal activity after the fact.
* While it is used in a many locations the number of images recorded, viewed or ever used is small. The use and collection of images is also subject to data protection laws.
The CCTV images of the 7 July London bombers brought to the attention of law enforcement across Europe the assistance that such footage can provide in the search for and identification of criminals and terrorists. As shown by this example, CCTV can be important in identifying those who have committed crimes and helping police, with public assistance, to identify and bring offenders to justice. It can also have an impact on reducing crime, especially tackling certain types of premeditated crime (e.g. vehicle crime). But public concerns over the balance between their privacy and the use of CCTV footage need to be met.
The Soho Bomber: in April 1999 a device exploded in a pub and three people died and 65 were injured. The offender was identified as a result of CCTV evidence. It was also used to track his movements through central London.
CCTV can be used in a wide range of locations, including car parks, town and city centres, residential areas, and even on public transport systems. It is more successful where cameras have extensive coverage, and are focused on entrances and exits to key areas. It is important that research is carried out in parallel to the use of CCTV to assess its overall impact and to determine in which circumstances CCTV could have the greatest impact on crime and on public fears. Research has shown that members of the public were less likely to worry about being a victim of crime in those areas with CCTV.
Is it proportionate?
It is difficult to accurately say how much CCTV material is ever used by or in connection with law enforcement. However, it is estimated that less than half of CCTV pictures are ever viewed by law enforcement officers, a smaller percentage is actually recorded and an even smaller amount is ever retained for any length of time. It would be unusual for recorded material to be retained for any length of time except where it is specifically required in connection with an investigation.
In 1993, a two year old boy was abducted from a shopping centre near Liverpool by two ten-year olds and tortured to death. CCTV evidence suggested to the Investigating Officers that the abductors were children not adults, which would have been a more natural assumption.
In order for CCTV to be effective, the aims and objectives of CCTV need to be clear in terms of what problems and issues it seeks to address. Schemes must be properly managed, supported by relevant technical experts. There needs to be a clear and informed decision making process on where to place cameras and consideration on the type of camera used, ensuring that it is ‘fit for purpose’. Control room operations are extremely important in using CCTV to help detect crime.
In order to ensure that CCTV footage is used fairly and lawfully, it is important that CCTV operators comply with data protection principles. In processing personal data, it is useful to require those handling this data to comply with a set of enforceable principles of good data handling practice.
This paper has looked at four practical developments both in the EU and at national level that have the potential to increase the security of our citizens. They also raise difficult questions about the balance between our various rights. The UK Presidency is committed to taking forward the debate with its partners on these and other issues. The Presidency is open to answers questions that MEPs may have.