CCTV Pixel Panic

The use of CCTV cameras by local authorities has long been a controversial subject. Civil liberties groups regard the proliferation of such cameras as an unjustified infringement of the right to privacy. Others regard the use of such cameras as a necessary and, hence, justified evil in the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour. However, recent guidelines issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) has raised altogether different questions about the legality of local authority CCTV systems. In particular, DfT published guidelines last week confirming that, with effect from 1 April 2009, Westminster council’s mobile CCTV cameras would be rendered unlawful because they lack a sufficient number of pixels to meet the new quality requirements imposed under the Traffic Management Act 2004 (TMA). The DfT has confirmed that the cameras must be switched off by midnight on 31 March in order to avoid falling foul of new TMA provisions, which come into force on 1 April. This is an untimely development for those law enforcement agencies which were hoping to use the mobile cameras as part of the security strategy to manage the G20 summit. It is understood that Westminster Council has now written to the Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, as a matter of urgency requesting a special dispensation so that the cameras will not have to go dark on the eve of the summit.