Scunthorpe Council Accused of Snooping with Body Worn Cameras

Body-worn surveillance has been used by police forces in recent years to help act as a deterrent and to keep officers safe from the potential hazards that come with the job. But with the use of these cameras by community officers, there is growing frustration that people’s privacy is being compromised without due justification.

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The Case For

Council chiefs have defended their decision to issue cameras to community wardens in North Lincolnshire. They say that by allowing the use of them to film such offences as littering, parking violations, public fouling by dogs and correct recycling, they are able to limit the number of offences carried out. Whilst not specifically used for enforcing these laws, the camera will pick up any misunderstandings between the wardens and the public. A council spokesman vehemently denies that the cameras are used to snoop, explaining that the use of these cameras is essential to protect their staff, who frequently receive abuse for doing their job.

The Case Against

The chief executive of Big Brother Watch UK has accused the council of infringing the public’s privacy by using these cameras. He says that although they can be a great safety tool, the use of them to pick up such minor offences on camera – acts that wouldn’t lead to prosecutions – is a abuse of power. He says by using them, the council is acting inappropriately by using surveillance equipment when they is no real need. He argues that if these cameras continue to be worn, there must be published data to confirm that this method is the only way to solve these issues.

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Use Elsewhere

It is not only community wardens who have started to use body-worn surveillance. Recently, a trial involving teachers wearing body worn cameras in school was rolled out to protect them from abusive students. Some security staff also use cameras, such as those working for, to deter offenders.

Whilst most people can appreciate the need for certain measures to ensure both staff and public safety, there is a fine line between using cameras where absolutely necessary and wearing them when it’s deemed not appropriate. As a deterrent, they work well to ensure transparency relating to public interactions, but are they really needed? What are your thoughts?