Pressure on Laois County Council to accept CCTV role

Dept of Justice says community CCTV depends on council involvement

Pressure on Laois County Council to accept CCTV role
By Lynda Kiernan lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie @laoisnews

The Department of Justice has kicked the ball back to Laois County Council to take on community CCTV data storage, which will take local groups out of limbo.

The extra cost of storing data securely, and the extra responsibility of council staff to look at crime footage and give evidence in court, has seen Laois County Council up to now refuse to take on the task.

That decision is leaving community CCTV groups around Laois in limbo, with thousands raised locally and no schemes up and running to show for it.

The Dept of Justice says that any local authority may refuse to be CCTV data controllor, but if it does so, schemes can not go ahead.

“In such a case, community CCTV schemes within the administrative area of that local authority would not meet the statutory requirements and as a consequence it would not be possible for them to be approved by the Joint Policing Committee or authorised by the Garda Commissioner,” a spokesperson told the Leinster Express.

The Dept said that local authorities can appoint an appropriate person to process data and monitor CCTV footage, subject to data protection laws.

However the council must find money in its existing budget for the extra job.

Responding to the concern about extra costs of data storage, the dept spokesperson said that footage must only be held for 28 days.

The onus on local authorities to be data controllor of community CCTV schemes is long standing, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.

He addressed concerns expressed recently by Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland, about the extra costs and the responsibilities facing him and his staff.

“I am acutely aware of the concern which has been raised regarding the status of local authorities as data controller in this context. It is worth noting that this is a longstanding statutory requirement applying to all community CCTV schemes, regardless of how they are funded.

“Nonetheless in the past number of months, I have met with Laois County Council, local interest groups and County Councillors and am optimistic that the practical application of this legal framework can be clarified for the benefit of all concerned,” Minister Flanagan told the Leinster Express.

The Minister went on to underline the importance of CCTVin fighting crime.

“CCTV systems act as a deterrent to crime and anti-social behaviour and enhance existing policing measures.

“The investment represented by the community-based CCTV grant-aid scheme reflects the value that communities, especially rural communities, place on CCTV as a means of deterring crime and assisting in the detection of offenders.

“Community-based CCTV systems have proven to be of noteworthy assistance in the prevention and detection of crime not just in my own constituency, but throughout the State,” the Minister said.

Council CEOJohn Mulholland listed his concerns, at a recent council meeting.

“We’d have serious concerns... firstly over data protection regulations, and secondly the position for our staff . I need assurances from the department that no staff will be liable to appear in court,” he had said.

“This is just a once off grant. If you find that next year there is €30k or €40k for retention of digital imagery, you might say when is this going to end,” the CEO said.