Councils Criticised for Using CCTV Camera Cars

Liverpool and Wirral councils are under fire over using cars equipped with CCTV cameras to issues fines for parking breaches.

Two Mersey councils have been criticised by Big Brother Watch for using controversial surveillance techniques so they can issue people with tickets.

The civil liberties group has called for a national ban on the practice, after nearly 10,000 fines were handed to drivers caught on camera in both areas over the past five years.

Conservative MP Nick de Bois said the councils should only use CCTV to protect public safety, not generating income.

The MP, who wrote the foreword to the Big Brother Watch report ‘Traffic Spies,’ said hard up drivers were being hit with unfair fines and urged councils to follow guidelines that said surveillance should only be used for protecting public safety.

Between 2008 and 2013 Wirral council took £239,951 from motorists who were caught flouting restrictions by their CCTV car.

But Liverpool council have claimed that the vehicle was used mainly as a deterrent, particularly to people parking outside schools at busy time – which could put children at risk.

Almost 30 charges were issued every week, totalling 7,513 across the five-year period.

In Liverpool 2,354 penalty charge notices were handed out to drivers between January 2012, when the car was brought in, and March 2013.

These fines raised £11,475 from almost 10 drivers per day who were fined for breaking parking rules.

Mr de Bois said: “I welcome this research by Big Brother Watch, which highlights that despite this guidance and additional oversight, local authorities are continuing to use CCTV cameras for means other than public safety.

“It is important that the public can have faith that CCTV is being used only in those situations where public safety is at risk and there are no less intrusive alternative routes of investigation.”

Councillors have hit back however, arguing CCTV is vital for protecting public safety.

Leader of Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat councillors Richard Kemp said this was the primary purpose of the CCTV strategy.

“There’s an important principle here,” he told the Liverpool ECHO. “To my mind yellow lines and parking restrictions should be in place where there’s a real need for them on grounds of keeping the traffic moving and safety and so on.

“If they’re there we should enforce them by any means necessary. CCTV is an important tool for road safety. People will die if we don’t enforce parking safety.”

A spokesperson for Liverpool council said: “The CCTV vehicle is used mainly outside schools at the request of the schools themselves and acts mostly as a deterrent against inconsiderate parking.

 

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