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CCTV: Will it ever become mandatory in all taxi and private hire vehicles?

In a world bursting full of CCTV on most streets, especially in urban areas, it could be easy to think you might feel secure enough in the environment you live and work in.

On the face of it, taxi drivers in separately partitioned cabins, should feel safer than most when it comes to ferrying around members of the public in the back. However, that does not stop any untoward passengers acting illegally and/or making false accusations which could see the driver stripped of their licence or worse.

For cabbies in saloon-based vehicles with no partitions, the threat of assaults and allegations obviously increases ten-fold.

The plus points of having CCTV include:

  • Deterring and preventing crime

  • Assisting the police

  • Assisting insurers

  • Keeping drivers safer.

Taking these points into consideration, it could mean savings on legal fees if a cabbie were ever faced with defending their reputation. It could also prevent a suspension whilst under investigation, and therefore help ensure little or no lost earnings. Essentially, it would swiftly help back up the driver’s story to the relevant authorities.

With all the plus points, there must always be some negatives. Some of those include:

  • An infringement of privacy

  • CCTV does not stop all crime

  • The cost

  • Finding the right solution.

At the moment, most taxi drivers have a choice as to whether they wish to use CCTV in their vehicles or not. However, new guidance due to be released “shortly” by the Department for Transport (DfT) could take that choice away.

Whilst the draft statutory guidance backed up the merits of licensing authorities forcing mandatory CCTV onto taxi drivers, the proposal has since come under scrutiny by the Camera Surveillance Commissioner (CSC).

In their response, the CSC said that “blanket licencing may be disproportionate and should only be used where there is a strong justification”.

An example of ‘strong justification’ has been seen in Rotherham where all taxis must have CCTV installed. This was one of several measures implemented following child abuse in the town and where taxis were used to transport a number of the victims. In this instance, the CSC said: “There was persuasive evidence to argue sufficient justification, but the Commissioner would not expect widespread installation of CCTV in taxis without well evidenced justifications.”

CCTV in taxis that records audio, as well as video, was also seen as “extremely intrusive and requires strong justification” by the CSC.

The CSC showed concern for taxi drivers using the vehicle for their own private use too. The CSC stated it would expect there to be a facility to switch off recording, but also in addition there must be clear policies and procedures in place regarding how the CCTV system is used and who can access the footage it records.

If that wasn’t enough, throw in how local authorities manage and protect the data captured, plus the local consultations required with taxi drivers, passengers, police and the wider public to establish a need for the systems, and it’s unclear whether mandatory CCTV is still a possibility.

According to a poll conducted by TaxiPoint, two thirds of respondents would welcome mandatory CCTV in taxis. However, several taxi drivers were keen to point out that was only on the basis that the driver was not going to bear the costs of any such new legislation.

A sizable third of all cabbies who took part in the poll still however wish to hold on to the choice as to whether CCTV should be introduced to their customers and business.

2020 should paint a clearer picture as to whether CCTV will become mandatory or not.


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