Police ordered illegal CCTV cameras to be placed in home

Max Salsbury, 24Dash |

A council illegally installed surveillance cameras in a home after being told to do so by police, it has emerged.

Cambridge City Council (CCC) installed the cameras in February 2010 after a woman reported suffering domestic violence. The council has since admitted “intrusive surveillance”.

But it has since been discovered that it was police who told the council to install the cameras. Cambridge police are yet to get back to 24Dash regarding the installation of the cameras.

Liz Bisset, CCC’s director of customer and community services, told 24dash: “This was a joint operation between us and the police. It was the police who asked us to install the cameras. The cameras were set up by a number of individuals who did not realise that they were not allowed to.”

She explained that the situation was a misunderstanding and since then a system of checks and balances had been put in place to prevent future breaches.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Clearly this raises some serious questions — did the police not understand what powers the council had, or did they wrongly believe they were able to authorise the council without going through any internal approval process? It is legally possible to authorise third parties under RIPA, but if the police believed they were authorising the council then what process was followed by the police and why did the council still think they needed their own internal approval?

“It is clearly a mess and what concerns me is that the questions go beyond the changes to procedure the council has subsequently put in place and go to the heart of how poorly the safeguards in RIPA can be.”

“Serious crime like this is for the police to investigate and not Cambridge City Council. I hope that the Council now undertakes a full inquiry to get to the bottom of this and to hold to account those who have badly failed in their responsibilities.”

Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the city council, said: “The event happened in February 2010 and was carefully reviewed in public a year ago, resulting in the introduction of specific legal supervision any time an application is made for covert surveillance, which the Office of Surveillance Commissioners has expressed satisfaction with.

“This will be reinforced by the new legislation, which as Liberal Democrats we welcome and have championed.”