Release of video images to the law enforcement authorities

The operator of a CCTV surveillance system may release digital images if so required by a court order. In the absence of a court order, the operator shall be required to carefully weigh up the circumstances before releasing the images. He may be held responsible for having acted unlawfully.

The operator of a CCTV system who receives a request from a law enforcement agency to provide access to digital recordings for use in criminal proceedings is entitled to release the images if the request is backed by a court order. If the law enforcement agency requesting the video footage is not acting within the context of criminal proceedings, a court order may not be required providing an overriding public interest is involved. It is up to the operator of the CCTV system to weigh up the different interests and to decide whether or not such a public interest exists. Such a step may sometimes be extremely delicate. However, the following principles should always apply, whatever the circumstances:

  • Check who asked for the video images to be released. Unless there is a court order, images may only be transferred to the prosecution services. If the request emanates from another authority or a private individual, it must be accompanied by a court order.
  • The operator should then check the reason why the images have been requested. The request for release should always be made in writing and it should be substantiated. If there is no court order, images should only be released if fundamental interests are at stake. Unsubstantiated requests or requests for trifling matters should be rejected out of hand. Since the operator may be held liable for releasing video footage without a court order or in the absence of an overriding interest, he should, if there is any doubt, ask for a court order to be provided.
  • If the operator of a CCTV surveillance system deems that releasing the footage is justified, he must go through the recordings and filter out the images that are relevant to the request. Only these images may be released.