Following on from a detailed consultation process that began last October, Tony Porter QPM LLB – the Surveillance Camera Commissioner at the Home Office – has launched a National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales with the specific aim of helping to keep people safe in public places and respect their right to privacy.
The 27-page strategy document aims to provide direction and leadership within and across the surveillance camera community to enable system operators to understand good and Best Practice as well as their legal obligations (such as those contained within the Protection of Freedoms Act, the Data Protection Act and the Private Security Industry Act 2001).
It’s the Commissioner’s strategic vision to ensure members of the public are assured that any use of surveillance camera systems in a public place helps to protect them and keep them safe, while at the same time always respecting the individual’s right to privacy. That assurance is based upon deployment which is proportionate to a legitimate purpose, so too transparency which demonstrates compliance with Best Practice and relevant legal obligations.
The National Surveillance Camera Strategy aligns closely with the Home Office’s key responsibilities to keep the UK safe from the threat of terrorism, reduce and prevent crime and criminality and ensure that people feel safe in their homes and communities.
The new strategy document will provide the Commissioner with a robust and transparent framework to fulfil his statutory functions as set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act, and subsequently inform and underpin his Annual Report to the Home Secretary.
Speaking about the National Surveillance Camera Strategy, Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter said: “After much hard work I’m delighted to be able to launch this strategy document. It’s a strategy that’s far reaching, touching on many areas of surveillance camera use – by the police service and local authorities, installers and manufacturers as well as training providers and regulators – and, of course, how the use of surveillance cameras impacts members of the public.”
Porter went on to state: “The responses to the consultation on the draft show that this strategy is extremely well supported, as do the number of organisations that have written to me to show their support. I look forward to delivering on this strategy for the next three years, ensuring that, where surveillance cameras are used, they keep people safe while protecting their right to privacy.”
Endorsement from the BSIA
Endorsing the National Surveillance Camera Strategy, James Kelly (CEO at the British Security Industry Association) explained: “The strategy is a very worthy and successful attempt to draw together multiple stakeholders from across what is a diverse and critically important sector. The BSIA is proud to have been a contributor to the Commissioner’s efforts at providing direction and leadership on the appropriate use of such systems to secure the protection of our communities while also protecting individuals’ rights to privacy. I’m delighted to endorse the strategy and will continue to support the Surveillance Commissioner’s work on standards and Best Practice in what is undoubtedly a vital part of the UK’s economy.”
To support the achievement of the Commissioner’s vision, eleven high-level objectives are outlined within the strategy document, each of them to be led by an expert.
Simon Adcock, chairman of the BSIA’s CCTV Section and lead on the industry strand of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales, commented: “The work of the industry strand of the strategy is focused on educating buyers on what to expect from a knowledgeable and professional service provider as well as providing practical guidance to help them comply with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. Ultimately, we’re aiming to establish and promote a set of guidelines designed to ensure that buyers can rely on their service providers for at least good practice. Over the coming months, the industry strand will be defining what we mean by good practice. This will be centred around ensuring that there’s an operational requirement and the resulting system meets agreed objectives. Our end-game is to ensure that anyone providing professional video surveillance services will, as a minimum standard, meet these good practice guidelines.”
Adcock concluded: “By dint of working with the Commissioner, the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales represents an opportunity for the industry to assure the public that video surveillance systems are being used in public spaces legitimately, responsibly and transparently in order to keep them safe. The strategy is fully supported by members of the BSIA’s CCTV Section and we very much look forward to seeing the strategy delivered through to 2020.”
Certification for Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had been considering applying for the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s third party certification scheme for some time, but it wasn’t until Mike Lees (the Trust’s head of business security) heard Tony Porter speaking at a conference that the decision was taken to ‘go for it’.
Lees stated: “Although we had been considering applying for some time, the turning point followed an excellent presentation by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner to NHS security managers late last year. This presentation clearly outlined the advantages to NHS organisations of following a process and how we could demonstrate the rationale of surveillance use.”
Certification enables organisations to clearly demonstrate that they comply with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. For relevant authorities – such as local authorities and police forces – this is particularly important as they must show due regard to the Code. For other organisations, such as NHS Trusts, following the Code is a voluntary decision.
The certification process provides assurances to hospital users and staff alike that surveillance cameras are used effectively, efficiently and proportionately. It also ensures that NHS Trusts are transparent about why they use cameras and where they’re sited.
For its part, Barnsley NHS Trust approached the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) and subsequently achieved Step 1 certification. This involves completing the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s self-assessment tool and then submitting the form to one of the certification bodies. The completed form and documents are then audited by the certification body who may contact the end user organisation for more information before recommending it to the Commissioner to award his certification mark which can then be used for 12 months.
Lees added: “The certification process was challenging, but very worthwhile. It allowed us to critically review the reasons for surveillance and scope these against our existing policies and procedures.”
Accessible and affordable
Certification is simple, accessible and affordable. There are three security industry certification bodies currently qualified to audit against the Code of Practice – the SSAIB, the National Security Inspectorate and IQ Verify.
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is already preparing its application for Step 2 certification, which involves a full visit and audit. If successfully awarded the certification mark, the Trust can use this for a period of five years.
Lees concluded: “Our application for Step 2 certification is already in motion. The Trust will be applying well in advance of the 12-month period that’s covered by Step 1. I would recommend any NHS Trust using surveillance cameras to apply for the mark without hesitation.”
The surveillance camera sector is substantial and an industry that will continue to grow. In 2015, there was a £2,120 million turnover in the UK for video and CCTV surveillance. The most recent estimates suggest that there are anywhere between four and six million CCTV cameras in the UK. That figure doesn’t include body-worn video cameras, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (ie drones).
Approximately 85% of local authorities have shown due regard for the Code of Practice by completing the Commissioner’s self-assessment tool in respect of their main CCTV scheme (typically their town centre scheme). 54% of local authorities in the UK have equipped some staff or contractors with body-worn video cameras.
The Metropolitan Police Service and Greater Manchester Police have been awarded the Commissioner’s certification mark for their use of body-worn video (20,000 and 6,000 cameras respectively). In parallel, the Dorset and Devon and Cornwall Constabularies have been awarded the mark for their use of drones.
Organisations such as Transport for London and Marks and Spencer have voluntarily adopted the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.
More information about the Code, the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales, the recent consultation process and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner can be found online via the following links: