Correspondence

Circular 011/2013: surveillance camera code of practice

This publication was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Home Office circular 11/2013 advertises the statutory code of practice that comes into force on 12 August 2013.

Documents

Detail

  • Broad subject: cime and disorder
  • Sub category: CCTV
  • Addressed to: College of Policing, chief officers of Police Association, Police and Crime Commissioners, English local authorities, Welsh local authorities, parish councils, Serious Organised Crime Agency, non-territorial police forces, police force communication leads
  • Distribution date: 12/08/2013
  • Implementation date: 12/08/2013
  • For more information contact: Alastair Thomas on 020 7035 0581 or email alastair.thomas@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk; or Sarah John on 020 8035 0848 or email sarah.john2@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk.

Purpose

The purpose of this circular is to inform you that the Home Secretary has issued and published a new statutory code of practice that will come into force on 12 August 2013.

Introduction

The government is taking forward a coalition agreement commitment to further regulate CCTV through a surveillance camera code of practice which has been prepared as guidance under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA). Following extensive consultation, the code was laid before Parliament for approval and will now come into force on 12 August 2013*.

This code of practice applies in England and Wales and is intended to ensure the public has confidence that surveillance camera systems in public places, including CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), are used to protect and support them rather than spy on them. In addition to making clear the legal obligations in relation to the necessity and proportionality of surveillance camera systems, the code promotes greater transparency on the part of system operators and a climate of surveillance by consent. It also promotes the more effective use of surveillance cameras where they are necessary.

Our approach is largely self-regulatory, and for the majority the code will not initially be legally binding. But we hope it will be widely supported and adopted on a voluntary basis because system operators recognise the benefits of compliance which include:

  • increased effectiveness of CCTV in meeting its purpose, largely through the more consistent adoption of approved technical and operational standards, and of occupational standards and training
  • the provision of better quality and more accessible images for use by the police and in the criminal justice system
  • reducing the risk that individuals feel overexposed to CCTV and ANPR

Relevant legislation

The code has been published as guidance under section 32(1) of PoFA as part of the regulation of CCTV and other surveillance camera technology.

In regulating what is a complex landscape of surveillance camera use, the government has been clear that it wants to take an incremental approach to regulation, starting with getting the basics right and addressing public concerns over surveillance by the state, but without creating burdensome new bureaucracy.

The code has been built upon 12 guiding principles, which provide a framework of good practice that includes existing legal obligations. Those existing obligations include the processing of personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998, a public authority’s duty to adhere to the Human Rights Act 1998 and safeguards under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 associated with the use of directed and covert surveillance by a public authority.

Changes

Section 33 (1) of PoFA states that ‘a relevant authority must have regard to the surveillance camera code when exercising any functions to which the code relates.’

A relevant authority is specified under section 33(5) as follows:

(a) a local authority within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1972

(b) the Greater London Authority

(c) the common council of the City of London, in its capacity as a local authority

(d) the sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple or the under-treasurer of the Middle Temple, in their capacity as a local authority

(e) the council of the Isles of Scilly

(f) a parish meeting constituted under section 13 of the Local Government Act 1972

(g) a police and crime commissioner

(h) the Mayor’s office for policing and crime

(i) the common council of the City of London, in its capacity as a police authority

(j) any chief officer of a police force in England and Wales

(k) any person specified or described by the Secretary of State in an order made by statutory instrument

The list of relevant authorities has been amended by order* under section 33(k) to include the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, and Ministry of Defence Police with immediate effect along with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). A further order is being prepared to replace the reference to SOCA with one to the National Crime Agency which will be established on 7 October 2013.

PoFA also creates the statutory appointment of a Surveillance Camera Commissioner under section 34(1). Andrew Rennison’s appointment as the commissioner was announced on 13 September 2012. The commissioner’s functions under section 34(2) of PoFA are:

  • encouraging compliance with the code
  • reviewing the operation of the code
  • providing advice about the code (including changes to it or breaches of it)

It is for the commissioner to provide more detailed advice about relevant operational, technical and occupational standards. This approach allows for greater flexibility and responsiveness of the code to developments in technology and practice.

The commissioner’s role will be to facilitate and encourage compliance. PoFA provides no powers of inspection, investigation or enforcement. He will therefore work to empower the public to challenge system operators and hold them to account directly through greater transparency. That said, where he has serious concerns about how a relevant authority is applying the code he can of course say so, and may do so in public if he feels that is appropriate.

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner will be publishing a self assessment tool and initial guidance on application of the code’s 12 guiding principles in the coming months. As part of a strategic approach to the provision of advice to relevant authorities and to others who are expected to adopt the code on a voluntary basis, some of the commissioner’s advice will be targeted at specific sectors of surveillance camera use.

The Home Office will be showing visible leadership in the voluntary adoption of the code and anticipates that others will wish to follow. The PoFA enables the Home Secretary to prepare alterations to the code or a replacement code. We will review any need to do so in 2015 based on advice from the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. Any future proposals for amendment will be subject to statutory consultation.

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner can be contacted at SCC@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk.

Attachment

The statutory code of practice was published in June 2013.

* Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Code of Practice for Surveillance Camera Systems and Specification of Relevant Authorities) Order 2013