Anti-crime tool under attack

Source: The Examiner

An interstate court decision curbing public surveillance cameras could have implications for Tasmania, a legal academic says. 

The state government said it was closely monitoring the situation,  which has already seen a New South Wales council shut down its CCTV network used by the police. 

The Launceston City Council's CCTV network has been credited with reducing the antisocial behaviour in the Brisbane Street Mall.

Council general manager Robert Dobrzynski said the NSW government had already ordered an urgent review into the court's finding, but he was not worried.

Last week a NSW court found Shoalhaven Council's use of CCTV footage in the CBD breached the privacy of residents. 

Similar to Launceston's CCTV network, Shoalhaven cameras are owned by the council but send live feeds to police.

The court ordered the council to shut down the cameras and apologise to Adam Bonner, who had taken the matter to court. 

The decision was slammed by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, who raised the case of murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher and the role CCTV played in nabbing her  killer.

However, Mr Bonner said he hoped the decision set a precedent for other councils. 

University of Tasmania senior law Professor Terese Henning said that could well be the case and Tasmanian councils might have to be a bit smarter when it came to collecting CCTV footage. 

``There might be questions and issues about trespass and invasion of privacy laws here,'' Professor Henning said.

Under the state's Personal Information Protection Act  councils are not exempt from the regulations governing the collection of personal information. 

In a 2005 circular sent to councils, personal information was defined as ``any recorded format, including photographs and sound and video recordings, about an individual that readily identifies that individual''.

Mr Dobrzynski said he believed CCTV was well supported by the community and a ``vital tool of police''.

``Here in Launceston, the council owns and maintains the CCTV network, but images from that network can only be monitored or stored by police,'' Mr Dobrzynski said. 

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said the Shoalhaven case related specifically to NSW privacy laws. 

``Accordingly, it is not directly applicable to Tasmanian law,'' Mr Wightman said. 

``My department, of course, is aware of the decision and will monitor the response of the NSW government to determine whether there are any impacts governing CCTV use in Tasmania.''

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