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Breach of Privacy

Adrian Mudd   June 17, 2013

Celebrity status of certain individuals over recent years has brought into question whether the UK needs stricter privacy legislation. Can hidden spy cameras be considered as friend or foe?

In spite of our hero worship culture there is no Breach of Privacy statute in British law. If this surprises you then you are not alone as many confuse privacy with other issues addressed in law. In the case of confidentiality versus privacy, the law recognises the former and provides statute to define same. In the case of use of  spy cameras, any challenge to its use would need to address the question of whether a particular piece of legislation has been breached or whether privacy has been invaded.

Expanded Use of Hidden Spy Cameras

The use of spy cameras has expanded around the world making it impossible to define a breach of privacy statement for use in law and this is why other legislation is usually quoted in cases where plaintiffs wish to address similar issues. More information on this subject is easily available in your local library via specialised texts and particularly via academic texts addressing what is commonly referred to as Tort Law. A good textbook will offer examples or case studies to help the novice navigate their way through this highly complex field. Alternatively, most professional suppliers of hidden camera equipment will be able to recommend how to seek further information.

Responsibility for the use of any recording equipment is entirely laid at the door of the purchaser or user although legislation now takes account of conditions whereby any other person can be held accountable or partially accountable for criminal behaviour where that person is deemed to have failed to disclose knowledge of criminal intent or activity to appropriate authorities. This particular condition within the law can bring its own problems but ultimately is designed to support the lawful and limit the unlawful.

A Spy Camera Case Study

One such case is that where a small town was plagued by crime such that it made many people fearful to leave their homes. Law enforcement bodies and other local authorities were unable to persuade residents to gather evidence as they were fearful of retaliation so a cunning plan was hatched with the support of external family members of affected residents. Legal processes were completed and finally several homes became the temporary custodians of a hidden spy camera and recording equipment placed in position by trained personnel whose presence was explained away if required as being an electrician or other technician.

The short version of this case study is that enough evidence was collected and accepted by the legal body to enable criminal action to be taken against the perpetrators of the behaviour. The defendants would no doubt have tried to claim breach of privacy because of the use of spy cameras but to no avail. The presence of a legal order to use the equipment in this case also meant that no notification of the use of CCTV would have been required although many towns and cities already have these posted as a legal requirement.