Councils imposing the use of surveillance cameras in pubs will now be subject to a new stricter code of practice that will strike a proper balance between privacy and security.
The change comes following concerns from pub landlords and the public that licensing authorities are making CCTV a legal condition of every pub licence as a matter of course. The Information Commissioner’s office, the UK’s privacy watchdog, has said it was seriously concerned by the development.
Surveillance camera systems, including CCTV, are widely used in England and Wales and where used appropriately, contribute to public safety and security, protecting both people and property.
The principle of surveillance by consent is at the heart of the new legislation so the public can be confident cameras are not there to spy on them but to protect them.
The surveillance camera code of practice has been laid before Parliament for approval, as part of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
Community Pubs Minister Brandon Lewis said:
CCTV has a role to play in stopping and deterring crime in anti-social behaviour hotspots. But well-run community pubs that don’t have a public order problem shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush.
The public deserves to have a pint in peace in a community pub without being snooped on. This government has called time on Big Brother’s secret, intrusive and costly rules that has forced pub landlords to pay to install CCTV where it was not needed.
The use of surveillance cameras should only be used if it is necessary and where it has public support.
The code sets out new guidelines for CCTV, encourage transparency in their use and ensure public bodies such as local authorities and the police consider whether they are proportionate before erecting new cameras.
The new Code states:
1.15 When a relevant authority has licensing functions and considers the use of surveillance camera systems as part of the conditions attached to a licence or certificate, it must in particular have regard to guiding principle one in this code. Any proposed imposition of a blanket requirement to attach surveillance camera conditions as part of the conditions attached to a licence or certificate is likely to give rise to concerns about the proportionality of such an approach and will require an appropriately strong justification and must be kept under regular review. Applications in relation to licensed premises must take into account the circumstances surrounding that application and whether a requirement to have a surveillance camera system is appropriate in that particular case. For example, it is unlikely that a trouble-free community pub would present a pressing need such that a surveillance camera condition would be justified. In such circumstances where a licence or certificate is granted subject to surveillance camera system conditions, the consideration of all other guiding principles in this code is a matter for the licensee as the system operator.