HRC: CCTV ‘should not’ operate without law

    TOPCCTVLEAD

    The Cayman Islands government’s plan to begin installing closed-circuit television cameras in public rights of way by next month is on shaky legal ground at best, according to lawyers with the country’s Human Rights Commission.

    In a statement sent to the Caymanian Compass last week, the commission – which includes a former attorney general, a managing partner at Campbells law firm, and a former member of the team that negotiated Cayman’s Constitution with the UK – essentially said that a code of practice for the public CCTV is simply not enough.

    “The Cayman Islands government should not operate CCTV cameras in the public right of way without binding primary legislation…in conjunction with a code of practice,” read a two-page letter sent in response to the newspaper’s questions by HRC Chairman Richard Coles. “It is the perspective of the HRC that a code of practice seeks to guide operators with respect to acting in accordance with obligations mandated by law. For this reason, a code of practice is not a valid substitute for a binding and enforceable law.”

    The commission indicated it could not fully respond to questions about what would occur if CCTV evidence taken in a public right of way was used in court without governing legislation, stating that the attorney general’s office would have to determine those procedures.

    In August 2010, the commission sent a lengthy response to initial proposals for a CCTV code of practice. Mr. Coles said the government portfolio directing the project has acknowledged receiving that letter, but that it has not yet responded to any of the commission’s concerns, including the development of a law to govern CCTV.

    “The HRC…is currently unaware as to the timeline proposed by government for releasing the [code of practice] in the public arena,” Mr. Coles wrote. “Operating the CCTV system without a publicly available code of practice (passed by Cabinet) would generally not be considered a best practice or indicative of good governance. The absence of even a code of guidance will make accountability extremely difficult.”

    For instance, the commission points out that without a binding and enforceable law, the CCTV system might be abused and the public would, in that case, have no recourse for those issues.

    “The HRC is unaware as to…the avenues in which the public may seek effective remedy if the government is suspected to have, or found to have, acted in contravention of the code of practice,” Mr. Coles wrote.

    Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush has said that the government’s plan is to conduct routine audits of the CCTV system and to include disciplinary measures for civil servants who abuse the cameras. Mr. Bush notes that local police and other law enforcement officers will have no direct control over the cameras’ operation and that those will be “passively” monitored at the 911 Emergency Centre.

    Also, Mr. Bush said that government does intend to have a code of practice for use of the cameras in place by the time the first ones are installed in late March. He said there would be no corresponding legislation by then, however.

    “I believe there should be a separate CCTV Law,” Mr. Bush said, adding that the portfolio has made that recommendation to police and Cabinet members.

    However, discussions between the HRC and the portfolio revealed that the use and protection of CCTV was more likely to be governed within Cayman’s Data Protection Bill or in legislation being touted to replace the country’s Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law. Mr. Bush said he was not certain when those two matters might come before the Legislative Assembly.

    Some 167 closed-circuit television cameras will be going up at 60 locations around Grand Cayman starting in late March. The installation process isn’t expected to be completed until June, but Mr. Bush said the cameras should start working once they are installed. The cameras will monitor only public areas and will not be allowed to veer into private property, Mr. Bush said.

    ‘CCTV cameras’ actually covers three types of cameras, including fixed video cameras, pan-tilt-zoom video cameras and automatic number plate readers (which take photos of licence plates). All three will be installed at locations identified by police that will be clearly marked with signs indicating the cameras are in use.

    The cameras will also transmit data to a secured storage location via either wireless or land-line connections. After that, the recordings will be kept for at least 60 days in case they are requested by police for review.

    A fourth type, speed cameras, have not been purchased and will not be installed in the initial phase of the CCTV project. Mr. Bush said Cayman’s Traffic Law would have to be changed before those devices could legally be used on local roads.

    TOPCCTVSTORY

    An officer monitors 100 closed circuit television cameras placed above storefronts across central London. The Cayman Island’s government wants to start installing CCTV cameras in public places around Grand Cayman next month.
    Photo: File

    4 COMMENTS

    1. The concept of the use of this CCTV system seems to have been copied straight out of the United Kingdoms law enforcement manuals but…

      The UK is a fully compliant human rights legislation country with a robust judiciary that enforces human rights laws vigorously, sometimes too much so for the liking of some of the UKs citizens but their judgements must be respected nontheless.

      The CI Government and Commissioner of Police seem to have forgotten that the Cayman Islands becomes liable to be a fully human rights compliant country by November 2012, in keeping with Caymans constitutional Bill of Rights, which will be monitored by the UK and EU, for compliance.

      If this present Government does not begin to prepare the required local legislation in a timely manner, the Cayman Islands will encounter some serious issues with the UK, the EU and its own citizens if human rights violations occur without redress in the local courts.

      This CCTV installation without the implementation of the proper protective legislation is already a major human rights violation.

    2. As the cameras will be operated by a public authority rather than a private security company they fall under the terms of ECHR Article 8 – the right to privacy.

      This was published in 2007 –

      https://www.cctvusergroup.com/art.php?art=39

      – but is probably still relevant to the current situation in the Cayman Islands.

      There is plenty of other material on the internet dealing with the issues involved.

      Surely this should have been part of the planning process that designed the system not an after thought?

    3. So much money to spy on innocent civilians than criminals! So if I am an innocent witness to a murder and I am scared to testify because I wouldnt want the killers to do anything to me and my family, the government that got me on there CCTV recordings, can now compel me to testify in court or else imprisonment. I would be penalize in order to tell the truth and hence endanger my children and family! But this is not the reason why I am opposing all of these intalled CCTV camaras. First of all, you have put CCTV camaras in the wrong hands, the hands of government! Second, the same CCTV camaras to help catch criminals, is now a replacement for Police Officers work on the streets! Third, sorry but I must repeat this over and over again – CCTVs invades my privacy! Some of you dont like someone to just come up to you and snap a photo from their camara, because you have the right as a citizen to not have a record or image of yourself being displayed – that is your right! Imagine now… you have camaras twenty-four-sevens recording your ins and your outs. And you have a Police Service that is more concerned about writing tickets, road blocks, and catching traffic offenders… but does little to fight the serious crimes. Oh they say, just leave that to the CCTV camaras. People, 300 government camaras intall all around Cayman! You may disagree with me and negatively rate this comment, but this sounds to me like we may be gravitating towards a Police State – a Government controlled country! All I have to say is MARK MY WORDS: These same camaras will be unlawfully used on civilians! MARK MY WORDS! AND GOD HELP US when the Premier or Governor decides to become DICTATOR! Cayman Islands will become a controlled state! The Police should be fighting crime, but camaras have replaced them! I say has any CCTV advocate ever considered our basic human rights and freedoms with all these eyes looking on us??? P.S. And I am not a criminal or support crime in any way!

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