CLARITY has once again been sought over the use of CCTV to convict those involved in illegal dumping, in light of concerns raised the Data Protection Commissioner about remotely-operated cameras.
A question was tabled at the November meeting of the local authority by Councillor Alan O’Callaghan, asking whether or not footage could be used in prosecutions. The Fianna Fáil member noted that the issue had come up at the most recent meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC). He said he had been “taken aback” by the advice given there. “It seems that the Data Protection Commissioner has highlighted issues,” he said, “however, we all watch programs where Gardaí make appeals for dashcam footage. It’s very frustrating. We are trying to battle dumping and littering issues across Clare.”
Councillor O’Callaghan noted that his party colleague Councillor Cillian Murphy had drawn his attention to an article reporting that 64 littering fines were issued in Tipperary thanks to the use of CCTV at a long-standing black spot. “It is also the case that CCTV signs have gone up around the county and have had to come down again here,” he said.
The Kilmurry-based member noted that the council is to seek permission for the use of CCTV from the Garda Commissioner, and asked if there had been a response from Garda Headquarters yet.
Senior Engineer Cyril Feeney told the meeting that a detailed submission for the Commissioner was still being prepared. “We need to be clear on the legislation being cited,” he said. Mr Feeney noted that Gardaí operate under legislation which allows them to use certain video footage as part of their investigations. “The county council mainly operates under waste management and littering legislation,” he said. “That allows us to do many things but the advice from the Data Protection Commissioner is that remotely-operated CCTV is not allowed. However, the Garda Siochána Act allows for such activity for the prevention of crime. We are still working on a submission to the Garda Commissioner and will cite the support of the JPC in that submission.”
In his written response to Councillor O’Callaghan’s question, Mr Feeney said, “The admissibility or otherwise of CCTV footage in court proceedings is strictly a matter for the judicial system to adjudicate on”. The reply said that the Data Protection Commissioner’s concerns centred on the use of surveillance technology for the prosecution of waste management offences. “The concerns relate to the applicability of waste management legislation and if it is appropriate or has the legal basis to secure a conviction,” the reply said. “Notwithstanding… we are currently preparing a submission to the Garda Commissioner, following recent backing by the Joint Policing Committee, to seek permission to utilise CCTV technology under the Garda Siochána Act. Subject to the Commissioner’s approval we are confident that this would provide a more robust legal footing in the use of CCTV for the prosecution of illegal dumping offences.”