An estimated 5.9 million CCTV cameras were in operation throughout the UK in 2016, making the British public one of the most surveilled in the world. Only Beijing has more CCTV cameras than London, where the average person will be recorded on camera 300 times in one day.
The prevalence of public surveillance in the UK stems from a government push in the nineties, with then-Home Secretary Michael Howard contending in 1994 that “CCTV has a major part to play in helping detect, and reduce crimes and to convict criminals.”
Shortly after this, the CCTV Challenge Competition fund was launched to encourage local authorities to set up their own surveillance schemes. This led to £120m being invested in CCTV systems in the next three years, and eventual high street ubiquity. Footage recorded by CCTV cameras is now regularly used as evidence in court proceedings, leading to the apprehension of many criminals.
How are CCTV cameras used in the UK?
CCTV surveillance is commonly used to observe public areas like car parks, town centres and housing estates. The cameras are monitored at a local monitoring station and if criminal activity is noticed, the operators can call for a direct police response. Many private businesses and individuals also own CCTV cameras to monitor their own properties.
The footage filmed by these CCTV cameras is also regularly used in both police investigations and court proceedings, and can often provide vital evidence that make the difference in a case. CCTV evidence has proven extremely helpful to authorities. A 2017 study from Nottingham Trent University found that CCTV proved useful to police in 65% of crime investigations. In cases where authorities deemed CCTV useful, the probability of crimes being solved rose substantially, from 23% to 48%. It has also been shown that Scotland Yard used CCTV cameras in 95% of murder incidents in 2009.
For instance, in the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings, counter-terrorism police spotted the attackers within four days of the attacks using recordings from a CCTV camera. They worked backwards from the locations of the attacks to try and identify the movement of the potential attackers, before eventually isolating suspects walking through Kings Cross. They then identified them as the same individuals as those on driving licenses found at the scene of the bombing.
CCTV cameras also helped to apprehend many of those involved in the 2011 London riots, from vandals to thieves. CCTV footage taken of the riots directly led to around 5000 arrests, after police trawled through over 200,000 hours of videos. More than a third of people said their support for the use of CCTV increased after the riots.
Have CCTV cameras helped to deter crime?
It has also been shown that CCTV can help to prevent crime being committed in the first place. CCTV is frequently cited as one of the most effective deterrents to crime and has proven to be particularly useful in reducing vehicle crime and theft, with the number of crime incidents decreasing by 51% in car parks that use CCTV surveillance.
When can CCTV footage be used in courts?
The majority of CCTV footage is taken by government owned surveillance cameras used in public spaces like shopping centres, bars and car parks. This footage is OK to be used in courts, however, it is trickier with videos taken on a privately owned CCTV camera. These private cameras must comply with
The Data Protection Act (DPA), the legislation that governs the use of such systems. If they do not, the footage recorded may be inadmissible. Some of the requirements that must be adhered to include:
• The camera should not invade anyone else’s privacy.
• There should be clear signs signalling that CCTV is in operation.
• Owners can only use the recordings for the purpose recorded, e.g to protect their property, not to spy on others.
Since the widespread drive to install CCTV cameras across the U.K in the 1990’s, they have proven useful both as deterrent to crime, and in providing crucial evidence to authorities to help bring criminals to justice. This is illustrated by their use in apprehending the perpetrators of a number of high profile crime incidents.
The Rise in the Use of CCTV in Court Proceedings
By: Frankie Phillips