Secure in the knowledge someone’s watching?

Secure in the knowledge someone’s watching?

Secure in the knowledge someone’s watching?

The British legal system today is full of case law where recorded evidence features in either the prosecution or defence.

Increasingly, the security industry uses Closed Circuit TV to capture unwanted intruders red-handed. But it’s not the only way in which evidence can be recorded and later submitted in court.

Shercurity, part of the UK’s largest High Court enforcement agency Shergroup, regularly films its security guards and enforcement officers in action, to ensure fair play on the doorstep.

Solicitor Claire Sandbrook, Chief Executive of Shergroup, explained: “Our security teams are highly trained in knowing how to diffuse heated situations that can occur, but I wanted to provide documentary evidence that proves they go about their business in a dignified, professional manner.”

Shercurity works with Shergroup’s enforcement officers when evicting squatters and eco warriors from premises and land, making sure they do not return.

The firm often hires a cameraman to film big evictions to ensure that, should there be a claim any officers have acted inappropriately, Shercurity can defend itself robustly.

Mrs Sandbrook says: “Our latest big eviction involved the removal of squatters that had taken over a small industrial estate in London. When people know they are about to be evicted we always have to be prepared in case they become aggressive, or worse, violent.

“We were backed up by 28 Metropolitan Police officers and we had our cameraman filming proceedings. Some might see that as overkill, I see it as necessary. I’ve gone down this route to protect the integrity of my officers.”

In the event, the eviction went smoothly. The squatters had been given notice that they were to be evicted and most had vacated before the enforcement officers and security guards arrived.

“At the same time, we live in an age where citizen journalism is ever present. Most people have a mobile phone that can take images or capture video. If squatters and debtors can film us, and some do, it is only fair that we can, too.”

“We know how easy it is to distort what actually happens and the last thing our industry needs is to see images turning up on YouTube taken from a different angle that are not a fair reflection of the proceedings,” added Mrs Sandbrook.

Andrew Roberts , head of Shercurity, says it’s not just video footage that is invaluable, CCTV plays a major part in capturing on camera people behaving suspiciously or stealing but he says the quality of this type of recorded material remains an issue.

“The extensive use of recorded CCTV film is well understood in the security industry particularly since the licensing requirements were introduced, but customers don’t always seem to have grasped why quality is important,” he says.

In Mr Roberts’ experience retailers, for instance, while they may have CCTV, do not always have the best quality equipment: “Where VHS tapes are used, and infrequently replaced, the quality of recordings is often very poor and unusable but digital technology is now changing this.”

However, he is quick to point out that some people rely far too much on CCTV as the only security equipment and fail to back it up.

He says: “Too often the use of film, particularly CCTV images, is not properly thought through especially where live cameras are not adequately monitored.”

“CCTV is only as good as the people who are monitoring it and I am concerned that the task often falls to busy people who do not have time to properly view the screens to ensure an effective reaction.”

“Film recordings however, do still make good evidence and although the Data Protection Act 1998 is complex, providing the correct principles are followed compliance is achievable.”

That said, technology has come a long way. Computer and digital advances remove the need to search through hours and hours of tape to find the relevant section, which computer software can now do quickly and efficiently.

“CCTV cameras can deter thieves but if the customer has not thought through what to do if the deterrent fails all they achieve is a recording of thieves at work. Unless someone reacts to what is occurring on screen it will be ineffective,” added Mr Roberts.