Ever felt like you're being watched? In 2006, the UK's Information Commission endorsed a report which stated that there were 4.2 million CCTV cameras in use within the UK.
CCTV cameras are used by local authorities to enforce moving traffic contraventions (where a motorist has disregarded a sign printed in the Highway Code), parking violations and to enforce bus lanes.
The problem is that where CCTV cameras are used, there are almost always never any signs advertising that they are being used. Section 87 of the Traffic management Act 2004 states that local authorities must have regard to any statutory guidance published on how they enforce traffic violations.
The statutory guidance has been produced by the Department for Transport and is available online. Have a look at Section 50 of the guidance. It clearly states that camera enforcement systems must be well publicised and indicated with lawful traffic signs.
It is clear that local authorities almost never do this. Next time you go out driving, have a look for the signs that publicise the use of CCTV cameras in your area. I bet you will find very few in comparison to the hundreds of CCTV cameras that are used on our roads.
1. I think that the statutory guidance should be amended to restrict the use of CCTV cameras for traffic enforcement. I think CCTV cameras should only ever be used where there is a significant to high risk that a motoring violation will cause death or injury on a road.
2. CCTV cameras should never be used to enforce traffic signs to raise revenue. The Traffic Management Act 2004 should be amended to strengthen the rights of citizens to sue local authorities for breaches of the statutory guidance, even in instances where a motoring violation has not taken place. This would allow citizens to take action against a local authority who failed to adequately publicise a CCTV camera that was used for traffic enforcement.
3. The amount of money raised from each CCTV camera should be published online by each local authority. Each local authority should be forced to publish a business plan for each CCTV camera they install for the use of traffic enforcement. The business plan should set out how many deaths or injuries that the CCTV cameras used would be likely to prevent.
Why is this idea important?
Article 8(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (as enacted by the Human Rights Act 1998) states that:
“There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
We must recognise that our citizens can be trusted to obey traffic signs in the interests of others and that CCTV cameras used for the prevention of traffic violations are are disproportionate means to prevent disorder or crime on our roads.
Our citizens have a right to be able to use the roads without being spied on by local authorities who only do so to raise money from penalty charge notices rather than prevent crime and disorder. This means that local authorities have breached the mandate of civil rights that we assign over to them as citizens in order to receive protection from the state.
CCTV cameras do not prevent crime and disorder, they simply record it so that transgressions can be penalised rather than be prevented. I would rather that local authorities prevent traffic violations by removing traffic restriction signs and installing restrictions only in the most necessary places where they are necessary to prevent death or injury to people using the roads. That, to me, would seem to be a sensible way to protect our right to privacy and balance the need to protect the public.