Plans to make dash cams in taxis compulsory placed on hold because of legal risk
Plans to make putting dash cams in taxis compulsory in Wrexham have been placed on hold amid concerns about the legal risks.
Backbench politicians in the county borough have previously expressed their desire for portable cameras to become mandatory to improve the safety of drivers and passengers.
There are currently CCTV systems in 100 out of the more than 500 taxis and private hire vehicles in the area, but they are installed on a voluntary basis.
Members of Wrexham Council’s licensing committee said they felt making it compulsory would help them when considering evidence about the conduct of cab drivers.
At a recent meeting, they asked officers to go away and look into the possibility.
However, after discussing the options with other authorities, licensing officials said it would place the council at risk of punishment from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Addressing a meeting on this week, Joss Thomas, licensing team leader, said: “Following a request to look into the feasibility of mandatory cameras within vehicles, particularly dash cams, the matter was raised at the regional local authority licensing meeting this month.
“There was a general consensus among the respondents.
“Only five authorities in England have applied mandatory CCTV and those have faced legal challenge from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
“Problems arose about the legality of mandatory recording, as by doing so the authority makes itself data controller.
“As a result, the authority has strict legal obligations as to the storage and retention of the data required.
“The ICO recently published an article in 2018 where it described continuous CCTV recording as almost always unlawful.”
Mr Thomas said both the Welsh Government and Department for Transport were consulting on a new framework for taxi licensing, which will explore the issue of CCTV.
He added that it would be wise for the authority to await the outcome of the consultations before moving forward with the plans.
Many councils, including Wrexham, allow taxi drivers to have CCTV systems in their vehicles on a voluntary basis, but the burden of complying with data requirements rests with the individual.
Before they put them into operation, the system must be checked by a licensing officer, who will assess the position of the cameras and make sure notices are displayed to make customers aware of their presence.
Another snag raised about allowing dash cams was the potential for drivers to edit footage or stop recording.
Cllr Derek Wright (Lab) said: “My concern would be that it would all be at the taxi driver’s behest what he kept and what he deleted.
“Therefore, I wouldn’t like it where it’s in the control of the taxi driver to edit part of the film.”
The majority of councillors voted in favour of putting proposals to make dash cams compulsory on hold for the time being.
However, they also stressed the importance of keeping the option open.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Cllr Brian Cameron (Lab), said: “I wasn’t going to say anything, but I feel I’ve got to say something. “How can you put a cost on safety? That’s my concern.
“I said it at the last meeting; how many times have we been here and CCTV would have helped not only the taxi driver but the individuals?
“I just feel it might not be the time, but I don’t think we can take it off the table.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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