Council to trial bodycams

Body camera
Body camera

Wigan Council staff are set to trial body cameras within weeks.

Town hall chiefs confirmed that they intend to give them out to environment officers - such as those who deal with fly-tipping, littering and dog fouling - as part of a pilot project.

Until now the boroug hhas resisted uptake but bosses say they will now assess the impact of their use locally and other examples of their use around the country.

More than half of UK town halls have kitted out staff with the equipment, spending just under £1.8m on thousands of devices, according to research by Big Brother Watch.

The privacy campaign group said the use of the cameras to protect personnel from verbal or physical abuse may be valid, and they can be a useful tool for safety and transparency.

But it argued equipping officials with them to issue penalties for low-level behaviour such as littering and parking offences is a “disproportionate use of an intrusive surveillance capability” and “a potential breach of the privacy of law abiding citizens”.

Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch said: “Despite repeated warnings about misuse of surveillance powers we have found that once again councils are choosing to use powerful law enforcement tools with little consideration of privacy.

“Using body worn cameras to protect people’s safety is one thing, but widespread filming of people’s behaviour in order to issue fines is simply not proportionate.”

Body-worn cameras are increasingly used in policing and have been adopted by local authorities for a number of years. It is now routine for police in Wigan, and Greater Manchester as a whole, to wear bodycams.

The research indicates that cameras are most commonly used by traffic enforcement officials and staff tasked with tackling litter and other environmental issues.

In addition, they have been issued to dog wardens and health and safety officers, the report added.

Paul Barton, assistant director for environment at Wigan Council, said: “Although we don’t currently use them, we are looking at the impact they have and are hoping to start a trial period with them with our environment officers in spring.”