Central Bedfordshire Council are holding a public consultation on the introduction of CCTV cameras in hackney carriage taxis and private hire vehicles.
The council are proposing to install CCTV in approximately 180 vehicles as part of a pilot, with a view to learning from the trial and CCTV becoming mandatory in all vehicles from 2021.
Central Bedfordshire Council currently license around 650 hackney carriage and private hire vehicles and believe the introduction of CCTV in taxis will improve safety for both passengers and drivers.
A spokesperson for the council has said: "However, we understand there are always concerns about recordings like this.
"There is a balance between protection of privacy and improving safety. We've proposed some measures that seek to achieve the right balance.
"We're keen to hear feedback on this proposal from the public, drivers, operators, town and parish councils and any other interested organisations or people before making a final decision on implementation approach."
How the CCTV would be used in taxis and private hire vehicles
The council believes the CCTV system will provide a safer environment for the benefit of hackney carriage and private hire vehicle drivers and passengers by:
- Deterring and preventing the occurrence of anti-social behavior or crime
- Assisting the police and licensing officers in investigating incidents of crime; by capturing actual events, investigators would be able to gather evidence for use in prosecutions or disprove false allegations
- Safeguarding vulnerable users - there have been a number of high-profile cases, nationally, of licensed drivers abusing their passengers’ trust, including serious cases of child sexual exploitation (CSE), including County Lines whereby vulnerable people are used to supply drugs in more rural areas via large criminal networks in major cities
During 2019, there were around 120 taxi-related complaints made to Central Bedfordshire Council, ranging from dangerous driving through to inappropriate behaviour, where CCTV may have helped establish exactly what happened.
There have also been reports of taxi drivers being victims of hate crime.
CCTV requirements and usage
The use of cameras would comply with data protection laws and CCTV codes of practice.
All licensed vehicles fitted with cameras would be required to have clear signage so that users are made aware of the cameras.
The position of cameras will ensure both driver and passenger(s) are recorded.
The recordings would be picture only, with sound recordings only made if activated using a button by either the driver or passengers.
There would be no live viewing of the recordings, rather they would be securely stored within the vehicle, the recordings would also be encrypted so that only licensing officers or the police could view them.
Neither drivers nor vehicle operators would have access. The council will be the data controller, recordings will not be able to be viewed by anyone other than council staff or the police
Any downloads of footage that are requested would only cover the period when the incident was reported to have happened.
Footage would only be kept for a month unless being used for evidence and will be automatically deleted. Cameras would be checked as part of the annual vehicle test, to ensure they are functioning as expected.
The results of the consultation will be used to help inform the pilot. Assuming the pilot is successful, the council has confirmed that its licensing committee will be asked to decide on making CCTV a mandatory condition for licensed vehicles from April 2021.
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