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Camera code summary

Mike Bluestone, pictured, Director of Security Consulting for Corps Security, sets out below a summary of the salient points relating to the new ‘Surveillance Camera Code of Practice’.

The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (‘SCCP’) was presented to Parliament pursuant to Section 30 (1) (a) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

· The SCCP provides guidance on the appropriate and effective use of surveillance camera systems (including ANPR systems) by relevant authorities in England and Wales. Other operators and users of surveillance camera systems in England and Wales are encouraged to adopt the Code voluntarily.

· Whilst the Government recognises the contribution to public safety and security in public places through the use of overt CCTV systems, it is keen to ensure that usage is firstly in pursuit of a legitimate aim; necessary to meet a pressing need; proportionate; effective, and; compliant with any relevant legal obligations.

· The SCCP has been developed to address concerns over the potential for abuse or misuse of surveillance by the State in public places, with the activities of local authorities and the Police the initial focus of regulation.

· Significantly, covert surveillance by public authorities is not covered by the SCCP but is regulated by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

· The SCCP encourages operators of surveillance camera systems and ANPR systems who are not defined as relevant authorities, to adopt the Code and its guiding principles voluntarily and make a public commitment to doing so. Such system operators are not, however, bound by any duty to have regard to the Code.

· Another key point is that the SCCP should not be confused with the Information Commissioner’s CCTV Code of Practice (last updated in 2008). That Code is primarily designed to help those involved in such activities to comply with their legal obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

· It should also be noted that the Surveillance Camera Commissioner has no statutory role in relation to the investigation and resolution of complaints.

· Within the SCCP there are 12 Guiding Principles and in fact the largest part of the document contains significant detail of those 12 Principles.

The 12 Principles cover the following:

1. A surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose, which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.
2. The use of a surveillance camera system must take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy, with regular reviews to ensure its use remains justified
3. There must be as much transparency in the use of a surveillance camera system as possible, including a published contact point for access to information and complaints
4. There must be clear responsibility and accountability for all surveillance camera system activities including images and information collected, held and used
5. Clear rules, policies and procedures must be in place before a surveillance camera system is used, and these must be communicated to all who need to comply with them
6. No more images and information should be stored that that which is strictly required for the stated purpose of a surveillance camera system, and such images and information should be deleted once their purposes have been discharged
7. Access to retained images and information should be restricted and there must be clearly defined rules on who can gain access and for what purpose such access is granted; the disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes
8. Surveillance camera system operators should consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards
9. Surveillance camera system images and information should be subject to appropriate security measures to safeguard against unauthorised access and use
10. There should be effect review and audit mechanisms to ensure legal requirements, policies and standards are complied with in practice, and regular reports should be published
11. When the use of a surveillance camera system is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and there is a pressing need for its use, it should then be used in the effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim processing images and information of evidential value
12. Any information used to support a surveillance camera system which compares against a reference database for matching purposes should be accurate and kept up to date

My understanding of the SCCP is that contractors who operate surveillance cameras on behalf of relevant public bodies must comply with the code.


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