Introduction of a Surveillance Camera Code of Practice aims to strike a balance between privacy and security in the use of CCTV in licensed premises.

Over the last few years it has become increasingly common for licensing authorities to require licencees to install CCTV as a condition of the grant or renewal of a premises licence.

The Information Commissioner has expressed concern about the increase in blanket licence requirements for CCTV, which has lead to a feeling that cameras are being used to spy rather than with the specific aim of assisting public safety and security.  The Information Commissioner has pointed out that legislation requires that licence requirements must help to meet one of the licensing objectives and must be proportionate to meet that aim.  An individual’s human rights must also be respected, and the right to privacy is one of these.  Over-use of the requirement to install CCTV is not in accordance with current law.

Surveillance Camera Code of Practice
There is still a concern that pubs are being required to install CCTV as a matter of course and the Government has therefore decided to take action, announcing recently that the blanket use of surveillance in pubs is to come to an end.  In what should be some welcome news for the industry, the Government has introduced the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (currently before Parliament) which is intended to come into force this Summer.  The aim is to strike a proper balance between privacy and security.  The public should be happy that cameras are there to protect them and not to spy on them and CCTV should only be required in pubs where it is appropriate and justified.

The Code refers specifically to pubs, saying: “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.”

Can you challenge the requirement to have CCTV?
If you are required to install CCTV as a licence condition, this will obviously have cost implications. If you feel that the requirement is unjustified then you are able to challenge the licensing authority’s decision through the normal licensing appeals process.  In recent years successful challenges have been mounted by landlords, sometimes with the assistance of the Information Commissioner, to the delight of customers.

Responsibilities for operating CCTV
If you decide to install or are required to install CCTV then it is not just a question of buying the equipment and installing it.  There are various ongoing responsibilities that you need to be aware of:

  •  Registration
    When you install a CCTV system you must register with the Information Commissioner and name the “data controller” – this should be whoever controls the images captured by CCTV and who has authority to disclose them.  There may be more than one data controller – for example it could be both tenant and pubco if responsibility is shared. You will need to pay an annual registration fee, currently £35.  As one Lancashire bar owner reportedly found out to his cost last year there is a fine and a risk of criminal conviction if this is not paid.
  • Signage
    You are required by law to notify the public that CCTV is in operation on your premises, usually by displaying notices.
  • Licence conditions
    Your licence may require you to operate CCTV at certain times and over certain parts of the premises, so you should ensure you comply with these specific conditions.
  • Policy on handling data
    It is important that you have a written internal policy which covers how CCTV images are to be stored and how requests for disclosure of images are dealt with.  This is a good basis for training individuals involved with the process.  It is also important to be able to demonstrate to the Information Commissioner that you take your data protection responsibilities seriously in case of a complaint being made about how you stored or used personal data.
  •  Disclosure of information
    The Data Protection Act 1998 sets out the circumstances in which CCTV footage can be disclosed to a third party.  In essence, images can be provided to the police if they are necessary for investigating or preventing a crime or for apprehending or prosecuting an offender.  NB: It is these requirements that you must comply with rather than any general stipulation in your licence that you must provide images to the police “on request.”

Further Information
Surveillance Camera Code of Practice – Click here

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.