Data Commission statement on CCTV 'changes nothing' insists Laois County Council CEO

Laois TD and Minister for Justice believes it does clarify matters

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

CCTV crime

CCTV installed at the Parish Church in Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois.

An insistence that data information control laws are not blocking community CCTV schemes has 'changed nothing' in relation to solving the issues holding back schemes in Laois, according to the county's chief executive.

However, Laois TD and Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan, welcomed the guidance issued by the Office of the Data Protection Commission in relation to data protection and community-based CCTV.

The Data Protection Commission Office moved in recent days to insist that the General Data Protection Regulation does not introduce new barriers

Minister Flanagan believes this clarifies matters.

“The guidance issued by the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office in relation to data protection and community CCTV is very welcome.  It should assist in clarifying queries or concerns which communities and local authorities may have had; and provide further reassurance to them that community CCTV schemes, when duly authorised, have a clear legal basis.”

“I am confident that local authorities will also be reassured by this confirmation that they are not required, as a result of their role as data controller, to monitor CCTV live feeds on a continuous basis. This has a real and very concrete impact on how local authorities carry out their role in relation to community CCTV,” he said.

A number of community schemes are held up in Laois where thousands of Euro have been raised to erect cameras. However, to proceed, Laois County Council must agree to be the 'data controller'.

Laois County Council chief executive John Mulholland has gone on record on a number of occasions saying it was not in a position to fulfil such a role. He has pointed to legal issues and resources among the reasons for not taking on data management responsibilities.

He told the Leinster Expres that the statement by the Data Protection offices changes nothing.

"The statement by the Data Protection Commission does not, in fact, change anything. The local authority remains in dialogue with An Garda Sáochána and other stakeholders as to a solution to the current impasse," he said.

The Data Protection Commission statement said data protection legislation does not stand in the way of the roll-out of Community-based CCTV schemes that have been authorised by the Garda Commissioner. Once the local authority is willing to take on and deliver on its responsibilities as a data controller for the schemes concerned, there is no legal impediment under data protection legislation to the scheme commencing.

Grants are available from the Department of Justice and Equality for community-based CCTV systems in their local areas.  Eligible groups can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000.

Such grants cannot be paid unless the local authority agrees to be the Data Controller and the schemes are authorised by the Garda Commissioner.

Minister Flanagan said he has heard from many groups of their desire for CCTV in their local areas and urged them to apply.

"I know the sense of security that it can bring to many communities.  Responding to this demand, the Government has made significant funding available to assist groups wishing to establish community CCTV in their areas. The grant aid scheme administered by my Department is intended to run for 3 years, with €1million available each year.  I would urge all interested groups, whether community groups or local authorities, to contact my Department if they wish to avail of the grant funding available,” he said.

Full details of how the scheme works are available at Department of Justice and Equality www.justice.ie<http://www.just ice.ie/> and support and guidance is available to help interested groups through a dedicated email address communitycctv@justice.ie