New opposition to CCTV plans

Oxford's cab drivers have a new ally in their battle against CCTV being installed in the city's cabs Credit: ITV Meridian

Oxford West MP Nicola Blackwood has written to Oxford City Council urging them to suspend their scheme to install CCTV cameras in all new taxis from April 1st.

She has also written to Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) seeking an update on their investigation into Oxford City Council’s decision.

In November 2011, Southampton Crown Court ruled that the recording of passengers’ conversations by Southampton Council was not necessary.

She said: “It does seem to me that the City Council has crossed the line with this policy, it is an invasion of privacy and undermining of civil liberties that neither passengers nor taxi drivers themselves have welcomed. The ICO has stated to me that recording conversations between taxi passengers is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified.

"CCTV plays an important role in combating crime and anti-social behaviour but that has to be balanced with privacy concerns and used within common sense limits. I would need to see some very convincing evidence of a significant crime and anti-social behaviour problems in taxis that needs to be tackled by this specific measure in order to be convinced that it can be justified, and that it is in compliance with existing Data Protection legislation.

"The City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association has now raised serious concerns about the practical operation of these regulations and whilst the ICO’s investigation into this matter is ongoing and I think it would be sensible for the City Council to wait for the ICO’s formal response before implementing such a costly and invasive policy.”

Oxford City Council says the cameras will make things safer for both drivers and passengers.

In a statement, the council said: "There are laws in places (Data Protection, Human Rights, CCTV Code of Practice) that require the viewing of such images to be necessary and proportionate, and therefore must relate to a specific complaint, incident or investigation. The officers are not permitted to view any images that do not relate to the actual matter being investigated. The risk of intrusion into private conversations has to be balanced against the interests of public safety, both of passengers and drivers."

The council said that as long as clear notices were displayed in vehicles, informing passengers that video and audio recording may be taking place, the risk of intrusion was acceptable compared to the public safety benefits.

It also said the level of privacy that could reasonably be expected in a licensed vehicle was far lower than that expected in the privacy of someone's home or own car.

The CCTV footage won’t be routinely viewed but will be stored on a hard-drive for 28 days. If an incident is reported, the council said footage from the system may be requested but only footage relevant to the incident will be required.