It is estimated that the average person in the UK is caught on CCTV over 70 times per day. We often see CCTV footage of crime on the news or on social media, normally released by the police to help with criminal investigations or appealing to the public for information. This footage is often from government-owned surveillance in public spaces such as bars, shops and car parks. However, increasingly we see private HD video footage being released for these investigations from home security systems. The question is, then, can this home footage be used in criminal court proceedings in the same way as government CCTV or other evidence?
The short answer is: YES… but the footage and the surveillance system itself must comply to strict regulations to be admissible in court.
Data Protection Act
If a home security system records any space outside of your own private property (for example, the pavement, your neighbours’ gardens, etc.) it must comply with the legal restrictions under the Data Protection Act. In order to be used as evidence in court, your system must:
- Not invade anyone else’s privacy.
- Have clear and visible signs outside telling people that CCTV is in operation.
- Only use the footage for the purpose for which is has been taken, e.g. for keeping an eye on any suspicious people on your property. It should NOT be used for monitoring neighbours or people working in your home.
- Only keep the footage for as long as it’s needed.
You should also make sure that the time and date of the recording is clear, and that the footage is stored securely so that it cannot be tampered with.
What about audio recording?
In almost all cases, you are not allowed to record any audio outside of your property on CCTV. There are a few exceptions to this, such as the panic button in a taxi, but these won’t apply to many home-owners using smart home security and monitoring devices. This means that conversations between members of the public captured on CCTV cannot be used as evidence in court. However, any video recording could be used in court, as long as it complies with the above regulations and is clear enough to identify the suspect.
Although rare at the moment, it is likely that home security camera footage will be increasingly used to assist with criminal proceedings. That said, the footage will still have to go through the police as with any other kind of evidence, so if you catch any suspicious or criminal activity on your home security system, they are your first point of call!
For more information on the legalities of CCTV, see the ICO website.