CCTV privacy ruling ‘a worry’

Published On: Mon, May 6th, 2013

Dominic Feain

A decision the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal that CCTV cameras breach privacy could have significant ramifications for northern rivers councils.

The tribunal upheld a complaint by a Nowra resident that it was not the responsibility of local councils to collect evidence for prosecutions and that experts had demonstrated that crime could increase after the installation of cameras.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told Echonetdaily that she had asked senior staff this morning to look into the implications of the tribunal’s decision, though added that CCTV cameras had been a ‘great success’ in Lismore and Nimbin over several years and had led to many arrests for criminal acts through the identification of offenders.

‘CCTV is a very valuable tool for us as a deterrent for antisocial behaviour in the Lismore CBD,’ she said.

‘Of course we are very interested in the issue and it will be of concern to councils throughout the state – I sent an email off to staff this morning to ask where we stand on it.

‘We are highly supportive of the use of CCTV in public spaces and we hope the state government looks at the issue so we can continue to use them.’

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson believes Byron Shire residents oppose CCTV cameras and told the ABC that they should be operated by police.

He said he considered other safety options like better transport and better lighting more appropriate for Byron Bay.

‘There’re plenty of things that we can do that have a wider value to our residents than simply spending one hundred or two hundred thousand dollars a year on cameras,’ he said.

‘Our position is if others wish to, we’ll begrudgingly accept it as part of a suite of safety measures, but we certainly don’t want to be involved with it ourselves.’

Shoalhaven City Council has now turned off its CCTV cameras following the tribunal’s decision, but councils across NSW are awaiting word from the attorney-general about the legality of the cameras after premier Barry O’Farrell ordered an urgent review.

The tribunal was not satisfied that council signage adequately informed people about the privacy implications, ruling that the council had not demonstrated that filming people in public was reasonably necessary to prevent crime.

NSW Police Association spokesman Pat Gooley told the ABC that areas without CCTV were at a disadvantage as police relied on the footage to track offenders.

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