Cameras could pose legal risk

Dr Robert Carr believes Kiama's CCTV system could be vulnerable to legal challenge. Picture: MOSTAFA AZIZPOUR

Dr Robert Carr believes Kiama's CCTV system could be vulnerable to legal challenge. Picture: MOSTAFA AZIZPOUR

AN academic believes a planned network of CCTV cameras for Kiama's central business district could be open to a legal challenge similar to that experienced in the Shoalhaven last year.

Dr Robert Carr's study, Surveillance politics and local government: A national survey of federal funding for CCTV in Australia was recently published in the UK's Security Journal.

The report contains national data on the cost of CCTV for local councils, much of which Dr Carr believes has been "unprecedented and under-estimated".

Dr Carr teaches media studies at the University of Wollongong and teaches politics at the University of NSW.

A new network of 20 CCTV cameras planned for Kiama's CBD is due to be in place by September.

The federal government has promised $150,000 for the network, along with $50,000 from the state government and $80,000 from the council.

The council proposed the system to deter criminal behaviour.

The cameras, which will have footage broadcast live through to the Lake Illawarra Local Area Command, will be installed along sections of Manning Street, Terralong Street and Railway Parade.

However, Dr Carr has urged Kiama Council to acknowledge his findings.

Shoalhaven City Council's CCTV cameras were briefly switched off last year after the Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled privacy laws had been breached under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998.

Anti-CCTV campaigner Adam Bonner claimed it was not the council's role to collect evidence for the purposes of prosecuting crime, and used expert evidence to show crime had increased after the cameras were installed.

"The decision led to the council unplugging its network even though the ADT ruling was a recommendation and not legally binding," Dr Carr's report states.

Shortly after the state government passed an exemption to allow councils to continue using video surveillance.

Dr Carr said the "victory" declared by the government after changing the law following the Bonner case revealed the irrelevance of CCTV evaluations to politicians.

"These changes to the Privacy & Personal Information Protection Act 1998 . . . were a facade considering the changes did not render it significantly any easier for CCTV to be operated by local councils lawfully," his report states.

"Shoalhaven City Council had violated Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the PPIP Act, according to the ADT decision.

"The O'Farrell Government amended Section 11 of the PPIP Act, leaving Sections 10 and 12 unchanged.

"The government's legal changes amount to very little as far as the ADT decision is concerned.

"The changes only affect 'live transmissions', which can still be regulated by councils through the enforcement of their CCTV policies and MOU with police."

Last week, Dr Carr said the legal issues raised by the Bonner case still had not been addressed.

"The other two [sections] are risks Kiama Council should consider.

"Kiama's CCTV system is vulnerable to the kind of legal challenge brought by Adam Bonner."

A Kiama Council spokesperson said they had received a copy of Dr Carr's study.

"Council has taken into consideration the study's key findings.

"Kiama's CCTV system is being designed taking into account Shoalhaven Council's experiences and a number of the issues Dr Carr raised in his study.

"Council has consulted with Member for Kiama Gareth Ward."

Mr Ward said he would stand up for the use of CCTV cameras, and opposed "slick and sleazy" challenges to them.

"If you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.

"Kiama's businesses wanted this and should be protected, and so should law-abiding citizens."

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