MP to be quizzed over CCTV legislation

Business owners in Honiton want answers.

USE of CCTV in the prevention of crime in Honiton town centre was the topic of a debate among business leaders last week.

Shop owner Mandy Newman raised the issue, saying she is concerned that legislation is more concerned with protecting evidence for use in crime detection than prevention.

A senior police officer is to be invited to attend a breakfast meeting of Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry in July to answer questions on the topic.

Mrs Newman, addressing a meeting of the chamber’s executive committee, explained how procedures, laid down by an act of parliament, meant a member of her team at Beauchamp Place could not look through CCTV footage with police following a theft from the shop.

“Had we been able to look at the CCTV and recognise the suspect, we could have alerted other shopkeepers,” she said.

Colin Wright, chairman of the chamber, said there were issues involved in alleging a person has committed a crime that could lead to legal action.

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“It could be defamation of character,” he said, pointing out: “There has been a big benefit from having the cameras.”

But Mrs Newman, who was strongly supported by businesswoman Patricia Franklin, said: “I can’t understand it. We paid for those cameras. What is the point?”

Although Honiton Town Council is responsible for the cameras, it is the letter of the law, as dictated by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which investigating officers must follow after the report of a crime.

Mr Wright said: “Viewing CCTV could prejudice court proceedings.”

Chamber members agreed that Britain is a democracy and, if people don’t agree with legislation, they have every right to speak out about it.

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish is also to be quizzed on the subject when he addresses chamber members in June.

Previously, town clerk Lyn Hargood has told the Midweek Herald that people can apply to her to view CCTV footage.

However, viewing the footage could prejudice legal proceedings.

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