Surveillance Camera Commissoner response to the Department for Transport consultation on taxis


Surveillance Camera Commissioner consultation response to the Department for Transport consultation on statutory guidance for taxi and private hire vehicles licensing authorities.

1. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner welcomes the opportunity to provide input in to this consultation on statutory guidance for licensing authorities with regard to taxis. He has worked with the Department for Transport in development of the draft guidance that was issued for consultation.

2. The Commissioner recognises that it refers local authorities to the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) s.33(5) sets out that they must pay due regard to the code. It is also encouraging that the guidance refers to a number of the tools the Commissioner has issued to help organisations comply with the 12 guiding principles in the code. As relevant authorities under PoFA, local authorities must be made aware that if they do not pay due regard to the code this is admissible as evidence in court. The Crown Prosecution Service revised their Disclosure Manual in December 2018 to reflect this.

3. That said blanket licencing may be disproportionate and should only be used where there is a strong justification as set out in paragraph 1.15 of the code:

When a relevant authority has licensing functions and considers the use of surveillance camera systems as part of the conditions attached to a licence or certificate, it must in particular have regard to guiding principle one in this code. Any proposed imposition of a blanket requirement to attach surveillance camera conditions as part of the conditions attached to a licence or certificate is likely to give rise to concerns about the proportionality of such an approach and will require an appropriately strong justification and must be kept under regular review.

4. The Commissioner is aware of the blanket requirement for taxis in Rotherham to have CCTV installed. This was one of a number of measures implemented following the child abuse issues in the town where taxis were used to transport a number of the victims. Here there was persuasive evidence to argue sufficient justification but the Commissioner would not expect widespread installation of CCTV in taxis without well evidenced justifications. The local authority’s Senior Responsible Officer for compliance with PoFA and the code will be able to advise on justification requirements for CCTV.

5. Furthermore, CCTV in taxis typically also records audio (as well as video). The recording of conversations is extremely intrusive and requires strong justification as set out in paragraph 3.3.2 of the code:

Any proposed deployment that includes audio recording in a public place is likely to require a strong justification of necessity to establish its proportionality. There is a strong presumption that a surveillance camera system must not be used to record conversations as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified.

6. A key part in the process for justifying a surveillance camera system is consultation. The Commissioner would expect to see clear evidence of public consultation before any final decision about installation is made. This consultation should involve members of the public, taxi drivers, police and any relevant regulators.

7. Local authorities must also have completed a data protection impact assessment prior to installation and have consulted their data protection officer and legal teams. There is a surveillance camera specific DPIA template on the Commissioner’s website which was developed in conjunction with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

8. Where it is the case that taxi drivers use the vehicle for their own private use the Commissioner would expect there to be a facility to switch off recording. 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 and where CCTV systems are IP enabled (connected to the internet) then they must be cyber secure.

9. The Commissioner would recommend that installation of any system should include a full operational requirement which can be achieved by using the Commissioner’s Buyers’ Toolkit and/or Passport to Compliance documents. This will ensure that a system is installed that is fit for purpose and actually delivers footage that can be used in court if required. Whilst the Commissioner appreciates the austere times that local authorities are working in, he would not expect that substandard systems are installed to save money particularly if the justification of the system is passenger and driver safety.

Should there be CCTV cameras inside our taxis?

The public are being asked for their views on the proposals which could improve driver and passenger safety

CCTV could become mandatory in all taxis in South Cambridgeshire to deter “would-be trouble makers”.

Under council proposals professionally installed equipment would be a new condition for taxi driver licences.

South Cambridgeshire District Council says all vehicles must be fitted with an approved system no later than March 31, 2020.

The council is currently inviting views on its new licensing plans which include stricter criminal background checks and a new knowledge test for drivers.

Drivers will also face more frequent medical tests, the introduction of safeguarding training, while Hackney Carriages must be made fully wheelchair accessible.

Under the new rules drivers, proprietors and operators would need to notify the council of CCTV camera installations.

These would have to be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and comply with data protection laws and CCTV codes of practice.

The consultation documents states: “The installation of CCTV in licensed vehicles can be both a deterrent to would-be trouble makers and a source of evidence in the case of disputes between drivers and passengers, other incidents and accidents.

“If fitted correctly, it can assist the police and insurance companies with their investigations.”

Council officers insist the technology should not be used to “record conversations of the travelling public” and that the footage may only be accessed by the police or the council.

A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire police said the force could not comment on a consultation while it was ongoing.

“We wouldn’t want to add weight to either side of the argument,” she said.

In Cambridge, members of the city council’s licensing committee recently unanimously resolved to require CCTV in its licensed taxis, as long as it was locked and only accessed by the licensing authority and police.

An implementation date will be set out in a report to be brought to the committee in March 2018.

But in an October, a meeting of the committee members of the Cambs Taxi Driver Association warned that some drivers on minimum wage could not afford the cost to install CCTV.

The proposals come after Cambridge taxi drivers were attacked in a night of violence in September.

The incident took place in the city’s Market Square where a number of taxi drivers were assaulted, and damage was caused to their vehicles.

Responding to the suggested licensing changes, Paul Bradley, vice chairman of the Cambridge Hackney & Private Hire Association, said: “This is very welcome news to us in the city as the majority of private hire working in Cambridge are South Cambs licensed and as such will bring them up to the high standards set by the city.

“This is now going make travelling in Cambridge by taxi and private hire even safer for the passenger and driver.”

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has been a leading campaigner on improving safety for taxi services.

He said: “I would strongly encourage areas to raise standards. I think CCTV does improve safety and confidence. I’m pleased to see that the standards being set between the two authorities is coming closer.

“Taxis legislation is very complicated. Its evolved over the years and hasn’t kept pace with changing technology.

“Standards are being pushed up, which is what we want to see.”

Mr Zeichner recognised the need for “robust” data protection laws and emphasised passenger safety should be a priority.

The Cambridge MP has introduced a private members’ bill to Parliament that he hopes will streamline taxi licensing across the country without undermining councils’ ability to set local rules.

Mr Zeichner criticised the situation where a driver who would not qualify for a licence in Cambridge but could still operate in the city with a license secured in another area.

He said: “We’ve been seeing drivers coming from other parts of the country where the standards are low.”

Cllr Alex Riley, chairman of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s licensing committee, said: “We’ve thrown down the gauntlet to the taxi industry and passengers on this policy and really want to hear what they have to say.

“The draft we are consulting on has set a very high bar, including the use of technology to make sure both drivers and taxi users feel safe and reassured.

“Once the consultation closes we will assess what everyone has said and then the committee will meet again to finalise the policy we set.”


Committee rules CCTV in Adur taxis is not compulsory

An Adur taxi driver has praised the council’s ‘common sense approach’ for advising that CCTV in taxis should be discretionary, not compulsory.

The issue was considered by Adur District Council’s Licensing committee on Monday, June 19.

We thank the committee for taking a common sense approach and considering representations from the trade

Sean Ridley, an Adur hackney carriage proprietor of 39 years and Unite the Union representative for the area, said the decision was appropriate for Adur – ‘a low crime area’ with an ‘absence of incidences’ to justify the mandatory use of CCTV.

While CCTV can record evidence of incidents and deter crime, there are risks of intrusion into privacy, the council’s Privacy Impact Assessment found.

Mr Ridley said after the meeting: “We applaud the decision.

“We thank the committee for taking a common sense approach and considering representations from the trade.”

He said the council had noted guidance from the Department of Transport, which states that ‘unduly stringent’ licensing requirements tend to restrict the supply of taxis, which can ‘work against the public interest’ and have ‘safety implications’.

He said he did not believe many private hire or hackney carriage vehicles in Adur would decide to install CCTV, which costs around £474.

Councillor James Butcher, licensing committee chairman, said: “Taxis are an integral part of the district’s night-time economy.

“As the licensing authority, we have a duty to do what we can to improve public safety.

“But we also know that some drivers have concerns over data protection and the cost of installing these cameras.

“After listening to operators across the district, the committee decided to give drivers the option of installing CCTV cameras.

“The committee will also work with drivers and those that use taxis to regularly review the issue.”


Taxi drivers face ‘total nightmare’ over £450 CCTV they were ‘forced’ to install

TAXI drivers say the CCTV systems they have been ‘forced’ to install in their cars are invalidating their insurance and running down the vehicles’ batteries.

Some cabbies even fear the wiring has made their cars unsafe.

Warrington Borough Council ordered every taxi driver in town to fit CCTV in their vehicle to protect drivers and passengers.

Three companies were selected by the council to do the work and each driver had to pay £450 for the equipment to be installed.

But one driver, who asked not to be named, said: “This is draining the batteries because the CCTV is still running after the engine has stopped. It’s a total nightmare.

“Some drivers are having insurance problems due to the fact the car has been modified, meaning they can only get third party insurance. And potentially we are now all driving cars with electrical problems.

“The council forced this on around 700 cars without due diligence.”

Cabbies also say the cameras can easily be blocked by lowering the sun visor and another taxi driver added: “Many drivers want CCTV however there have been failures in the implementation from the start.

“As a trade we are helpless to do anything. As a diligent driver with my passengers’ safety in mind I would disconnect the system and get it checked, however I would be suspended immediately if I was to do this. Our licence conditions say it must be working all the time.”

A council spokesman said the matter is currently under review but declined to comment further.

The Information Commissioners Office is also looking into claims the system breaches data protection.

A spokesman from the ICO said: “The Data Protection Act protects the public by setting out rules that personal data must be handled fairly and lawfully. We have ongoing discussions with Warrington Council about its use of CCTV in taxis.”

The council was one of the first in the country to introduce CCTV in taxis and the plans were launched in June 2016 following a public consultation.

It was hoped the system would prevent drivers from verbal abuse and assault as well as helping to provide evidence for any crimes that may take place inside taxis.


Nationwide drive for new taxi laws

A SURVIVORS’ group which helped tighten taxi rules in Rotherham after the child sex scandal wants stricter laws across the UK.

The Rotherham CSE Steering Group is writing to all councils in the country, urging them to take a similar stance with licensing.

New rules imposed by commissioner Mary Ney mean the majority of the borough’s cabs will need cameras and audio kit by July 6.

And “Katie”, a member of the steering group which advised RMBC, said: “We are now putting together a national plan to help prevent and reduce CSE.

“Part of our plan will be covering licensing policies, including taxis to make it safer for all passengers and drivers.

“We are contacting all councils throughout the UK to put our suggestions in place as we feel this can reduce all forms of crime.”

The steering group was consulted by Rotherham Borough Council on licensing changes explored after the Jay report highlighted the “prominent” role of taxis in CSE.

Now members — aiming to be heard by other authorities — have held meetings with Kirklees Council in Huddersfield, North Yorkshire County Council and spoken at a multi-agency event in Durham.

On Wednesday, they met Sheffield Council officials and group member “Jessica” said: “We’ve had some positive responses.

“I think they need to have stricter taxi licensing.

“Some drivers who are not happy about the cameras are moving to Sheffield or Barnsley for their plates but still operating in Rotherham.

“Why are people going to these lengths? The cameras are not going to be for child sexual exploitation, it could be an assault of a driver, anything.

“The main thing that we were fighting for with taxis is CCTV and audio. This is not just a problem for Rotherham, so it’s something we wanted to put in the national plan.”

RMBC’s new policy means all journeys must be video recorded, with audio activated when the passenger is a child or vulnerable adult. Drivers are unable to access footage.

The steering group has called for further measures to be introduced, including glass separating minicab drivers from passengers, a ban on under-16s in the front seat and enhanced DBS checks on drivers.

Jessica said: “People in our group like to put their ideas forward, but we’re all at different stages, so not everyone’s ready or feels strong enough to do meetings or conferences.

“At our art therapy group we have about 20 people but it’s a smaller core who are involved in the national plan.

“I’ve made friends in the steering group with people who I now speak to every single day.

“We want to tackle CSE from every angle, but that will take years to do.”

Rotherham drivers whose renewal date falls after July 6 have until they submit a new application to install the required equipment.

RMBC says this affects 150 of 780 vehicles.

The steering group can be contacted on


Taxi Drivers CCTV lands ‘sex attack’ liar in Jail

A woman has been sent to prison for falsely claiming a taxi driver sexually assaulted her. Claire Emma Carr, 20, from west Hull was jailed for 12 weeks after she admitted lying.

The falsely accused driver today told the Mail he could have “lost everything” if he did not have CCTV in his vehicle – which proved she was telling lies.

The 48-year-old driver picked up Carr from an address in Camelford Close, Bransholme, and took her to her home in Wesley Court, west Hull, on April 13.

He said: “It was just a normal job. I asked her where she was going, we didn’t even speak until we got to Freetown Way. Someone had been knocked off their bike and we were saying how bad it was. I dropped her off as normal, she paid me the fare, and that was that.”

The next morning, the taxi driver, who has worked in the city for 25 years, had a knock on his door from a police officer.

“It was about 8.30am,” he said. “I asked if I could help him and he said there had been an allegation of a sexual assault against me. I was absolutely mortified.”

The driver told the police officer he had CCTV cameras in his vehicle, which were checked and proved nothing had happened.

“She had told police I had made some sexual remarks to her, and that when we got to Fountain Road she said I had tried to put my hands down her trousers,” he said.

“She said she screamed and made me stop the car and ran off. Thankfully, the CCTV proved different and showed what really happened.”

The taxi driver, who has asked not to be named, said the CCTV he has inside his vehicle saved his life.

“If it wasn’t for my CCTV I could have lost everything,” he said. “I would have lost my job which is my living, I could have lost my house. Thankfully, I have got a rock-solid marriage and my wife knew she was lying, but someone else might not have been so lucky.”

The 48-year-old is now urging other drivers to install CCTV in their vehicles after he purchased the equipment himself. “It saved my life,” he said. “I dread to think what could have happened if I didn’t have this in my vehicle.”

The taxi driver described Carr as “completely normal” when he met her on April 13.

“I just don’t know what went through her head,” he said. “I believe she should be named and shamed for what she has done. Her actions undermine actual victims of sexual abuse and assault.

“There was no reason for what she did. The stress I have been under has been horrendous.”

Carr pleaded guilty to wasting police time when she appeared at Hull Magistrates’ Court on Monday. She was jailed for 12 weeks.

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Foster, of Humberside Police’s protecting vulnerable people unit, said: “We actively encourage victims of sexual assault to contact the force so they can be supported by specialist officers. Any allegation of sexual assault is then thoroughly and robustly investigated to ensure offenders are brought to justice.

“However, in cases like this, any false reports of sexual assault will not be tolerated and those responsible face being charged with wasting police time and dealt with by the courts.”

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Every taxi in Warrington is set to have CCTV installed from next month

EVERY taxi in Warrington is set to have CCTV installed in order to protect the security of drivers and passengers.

Warrington Borough Council has ordered cabbies across town to fit their vehicles with CCTV after a consultation with drivers, members of the public and partner agencies.

It hopes that the cameras, which will be rolled out from June 1, will tackle crime in taxis as well as help bring justice when offences are committed.

Installation costs around £400 per vehicle and when taxis have their six monthly or annual MOTs the cameras will be installed alongside stickers alerting users of their presence.

Cllr Judith Guthrie said: “The taxi hire trade valuable public service, especially late at night when other forms of public transport are not always available.

“Security for drivers and passengers is of a high priority – the cameras will act hopefully as a deterrent to prevent any crime happening and help those most vulnerable to feel safer.

“The council is also aware that the taxi and private hire sector is becoming increasingly-competitive following steps to deregulate the taxi licensing regime.

“It is in the best interests of the council and our local business to demonstrate that licensed operators in Warrington operate to the highest standards, providing a quality service in order that they can remain commercially competitive.”

Some of the town’s cabbies have had their say on the move, which would also allow them to record sound if they choose.

Eugene Kelly, the co-owner of Lymmited Taxis and Minibuses, said: “I think it is a great move and I am fully behind it.

“There are no cons to this – it is good news for drivers and passengers.

“Passengers who get in our cars that have the cameras also say they think it is a great idea and how much more comfortable they feel.

“It is especially good for lone women travelling – it will definitely make them feel more comfortable.”

Dave Brownlee of We Care Travel says the move has proved popular with customers as well.

He said: “I’m very happy with the camera – I feel more confident and I know my customers do too.

“One lady who got in my cab last week liked the idea so much she said when she rings for a cab in future she will always ask for one that has a camera installed.

“I got my camera put in as soon as I heard about it even though my MOT is not due until the end of the year.”


CCTV cameras fitted in Rotherham taxis to ‘rebuild trust’

Taxis in Rotherham are being fitted with CCTV cameras in an effort to rebuild trust in the town’s taxi industry.

Drivers have until July 6 to fit the cameras, which are now a requirement under Rotherham Council’s new Taxi and Hackney Carriage policy

Only people authorised by the Council can access any recorded footage. Drivers will be unable to access footage

The Council will only download the footage in certain circumstances, such as if there is a complaint or incident involving a taxi, or if the Council wants to check that the system is being used properly.

The Council can easily check if a vehicle was being used as a taxi at a particular time by referring to records held by the private hire company that the taxi is working for.

The Council does not require the systems to be active during the times that the system is not being used as a taxi, so there will be no intrusion into the private lives of drivers and their families.

Commissioner Ney added: “The camera system will provide protection for both passengers and the driver, and there needs to be the correct balance between protecting people and making sure that there is no breach of people’s rights to privacy.

“The driver is required to make sure that the system is operating correctly when the taxi is working. We will carry out random checks including downloading footage from the systems to verify that the systems are being used as required by the Council’s policy. If they are not then drivers may have their licence suspended or revoked.”

The new Rotherham Council Taxi and Hackney Carriage policy sets out in detail the requirements of drivers which include checks of criminal records, social care and other agencies, motoring offences, the drivers’ track record and previous licensing history. The policy also sets standards concerning the safety of vehicles.

To read the new rules go to

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Violence towards taxi drivers sparks CCTV review

A new discussion about putting CCTV in taxis is to take place in light of a number of attacks on cab drivers in Sheffield.

Representatives from local taxi firms will meet with councillors on the licensing committee on Thursday to discuss the possibility of making it mandatory for all of Sheffield’s cab drivers to record their journeys.

A council report said: “Taxi and private hire drivers work alone, often at night and often in remote places. They also carry money and as a result are vulnerable to assault and abuse.

“Recently in Sheffield, we have encountered a number of attacks on drivers for differing reasons and with differing levels of abuse or violence. Most recently a driver was attacked and lost the vision in one eye, which will ultimately cost him his licence to drive.”

At present, 128 vehicles in Sheffield have been granted consent to install CCTV cameras, out of a total fleet of 2,224. Most of the time, recording only begins if the driver’s panic button has been pressed to indicate he or she is in trouble.

Mercury Taxis’ general manager, Dermot Griffiths, who is attending the meeting, said: “I don’t feel that CCTV is essential as generally most bad behaviour is related to drink or drugs. These people do not generally think before they act – meaning the deterrent aspect of CCTV would be useless.

“Additionally, the cost of a system that would be of sufficient quality to have the desired effect is expensive and there would be a big question as to who would be footing the bill, which would have an effect on prices.”

A standard CCTV system costs about £300, but recordings can only be saved for a limited amount of time. In licensed premises like pubs, recordings must be stored for a minimum of 31 days before they are erased or overwritten. If the same rules applied to taxis, the equipment would cost more than £500.

At the meeting, the current policy and specification will be reviewed. The present policy is that images captured must remain secure at all times, and only authorised officers from the council or police are allowed to view them. Some form of encryption and access code is required to ensure the images are secure. Also, there must be signs letting passengers know if the vehicle has CCTV installed.

Dermot said: “I personally am happy to see it stay as an individual choice, with maybe a subsidy for anyone who would like to have CCTV. During the eight years I have been general manager at Mercury Taxis – which encompasses about 10.5 million taxi journeys – I can’t think of many occasions that would have been prevented or cured by CCTV.”

The review is taking place following a pilot scheme, where 33 vehicles were installed with CCTV. Before the pilot, no drivers had approached the licensing authority requesting consent to install a camera. However, after the pilot, all 33 drivers kept the systems in their cabs.


Man jailed for biting Hastings taxi driver

A PASSENGER who bit a taxi driver in the face during a frenzied attack has been jailed today (Friday).

James Pilgrim, 43, of Newgate Road, St Leonards, left Leigh Curtis with injuries including cuts and bruises to his face, a broken nose, broken ribs and requiring stitches to his finger.

At a court hearing at Lewes Crown Court this morning, Judge Charles Kemp described the unprovoked attack as ‘appalling’, before jailing Pilgrim for 30 months.

The assault was captured in its entirety by CCTV cameras installed in the Mr Curtis’s vehicle, which was instrumental in the prosecution of Pilgrim. The footage was played in today’s sentencing.

Mr Curtis, who has more than 30 years experience driving a taxi, has been unable to work since the attack on Tuesday, July 17 and continues to suffer flashbacks.

Just after midnight on that day, he picked Pilgrim up from the Lord Warden pub in Manor Road and drove him home to Newgate Road.

Pilgrim said he did not have the fare on him, so after confirming that he was known to the radio operator, Mr Curtis agreed that he could pay in a few days time.

As he was getting out of the taxi, Pilgrim broke a bottle of wine he was carrying, which appeared to be the trigger for him to turn nasty.

The violence escalated to the point where Pilgrim had Mr Curtis in a headlock and proceeded to bite him on the face.

It only came to an end when the handbrake was released in the struggle causing the car to roll backwards colliding with parked vehicles. The impact caused Pilgrim to release his grip.

He was arrested at the scene by police, and Mr Curtis was taken by ambulance to the Conquest for treatment.

Pilgrim pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm when he appeared at Hastings Magistrates Court on August 2. He also admitted possession of cannabis.

After today’s hearing, Mr Curtis said: “I am glad he (Pilgrim) got a prison sentence but I think it should have been double. Since the attack everything has gone wrong, both financially and emotionally. I still get flashbacks and now I don’t trust anybody. It’s horrible.”