Stoke & Staffordshire

Tamworth school's CCTV to catch pupils smoking 'unfair'

A school in Staffordshire has been criticised for using on-site security cameras to film evidence of its pupils smoking.

Landau Forte Academy in Tamworth said the footage was used to fine pupils £10 for breaking its school rules.

CCTV advisory group Camerawatch said the practice was potentially unfair.

It said the data protection code of practice states that surveillance cameras must clearly warn the public if they are employed for non-security use.

Some parents told the BBC they were in favour of it because the CCTV could deter bullying.

Other parents said they felt it contravened the pupil's right to privacy.

Paul Mackie from Camerawatch said: "You are not allowed to just put up a CCTV system and then carry on.

"If you're going to collect images from the public and they can be recognised, your CCTV system must be registered with the Information Commissioner's Office, who is the overseeing authority.

"And when you register you have to state exactly what you are using that CCTV system for and those reasons must be on the signage that people will see before they are captured by the system."

'Proportionate response'

The Information Commissioner's Office, an independent UK body that upholds individuals rights to privacy, said the use of CCTV surveillance was a sensitive issue, particularly where children were concerned and parents should be consulted about its use.

It said organisations had to carefully consider whether the use of surveillance was justified, for example to protect public safety or prevent crime, whether it was a proportionate response to the problem it was designed to deal with, and whether people knew they were being filmed.

An ICO spokesman said: "In exceptional circumstances, we recognise that there might be a justification for installing a system for the purpose of addressing problem behaviour.

"However we would stress that constant filming and sound recording is unlikely to be acceptable unless there is a pressing need - for example, if there is an ongoing problem of assaults or criminal damage."

The school said its CCTV and smoking fixed penalty policy was available for parents to see on its website.

It has declined to comment further about the subject.

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