Report criticises councils over use of body-worn cameras

Councils have been criticised for their use of body-warn cameras in a new report.

Research by Big Brother Watch claims that more than half of UK councils have given body-worn cameras to their officials to snoop on minor offences such as littering, bad parking and dog-fouling.

Two-thirds of the local authorities have also failed to conduct a privacy impact assessment before taking the controversial measure.

The civil liberties campaign group, which revealed its findings in a new report, claimed the “widespread filming” was not “proportionate” to the often trivial offences committed.

Key findings from the research include:

  • 227 local authorities (54%) were at least trialling the cameras
  • 3,760 cameras had been purchased
  • 150 local authorities (66%) did not know if they had completed a privacy impact assessment.
  • A total of 21% of councils were keeping footage for longer than 31 days, which is the limit recommended for police forces.

Newham council has spent more than any other local authority, at £100,640, while neighbouring Tower Hamlets, in second place, has spent £91,000.

Newham keeps footage for 60 days and for longer if the film is deemed “evidential”, for comment.

The highest spending outside London was in Cardiff, in third place, Renfrewshire, in sixth place, and Colchester, Chelmsford and Newcastle Upon Tyne in eighth, ninth and tenth position respectively.

The watchdog group sent its Freedom of Information requests out in August 2016 and received responses from 98% of local authorities.

Big Brother Watch (BBW) chief executive Renate Samson said: “Despite repeated warnings about misuse of surveillance powers we have found that once again councils are choosing to use powerful law enforcement tools with little consideration of privacy.

“Using body worn cameras to protect people’s safety is one thing, but widespread filming of people’s behaviour in order to issue fines is simply not proportionate.”

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