What are the legal implications of owning your own CCTV system?

One of the promises of the new coalition government is that they intend to regulate CCTV in the UK. This is because there is still a lot of confusion as to whether a person can install CCTV in their home and crucially if the video they record can be submitted to the police for evidence. This is a move I welcome and I hope the new regulations are introduced soon.

Until then though, this is the state of play as to the legalities of installing CCTV in the UK.

If you are going to install a CCTV system like Jabbakam you will need to check with your local council. Different councils have differing regulations for CCTV. Start by checking out your local council websites.

Most councils will be sympathetic to your request and should advise you on how to comply with their regulations. If you are setting up a CCTV system for your estate or street you may find your council very supportive and they may even work with you on a partnership for the system. For example Hackney Council in London, a left wing council in an urban area, has a series of partnerships with community groups who have CCTV systems installed to prevent crime on their estates.

The council’s guidelines are to ensure that your CCTV system is compliant with a series of acts including the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act. In reality these are more concerned with protecting the privacy of bystanders who aren’t actually on your property rather than stopping you from having a system in your own home. For example if your cameras are pointing at areas outside your property where people walking by could be caught on camera this may contravene the regulations. This is called collateral intrusion and I will post something further on this subject soon.

It seems that in most instances common sense prevails and that people can install CCTV in their homes without having to worry about contravening any of these acts. If you are installing CCTV do talk to your council though to be on the safe side.

Another good reason for talking to the council is to ensure that the footage your CCTV system captures could, if required, be used by the police to get a conviction. Once again councils have differing views on this. There are however some Home Office guidelines here, but as I mentioned at the start of this article these could well change soon. For now though the key questions anyone installing CCTV systems needs to ask are:

1. Are the pictures good enough?

2. Where are they stored?

3. Can they be easily transferred?

4. How good is the playback software?