I am grateful for the opportunity to debate the issue of community CCTV schemes. This was a much heralded and welcomed scheme, which is not functioning properly or effectively and needs addressing and adjusting. I discussed this matter with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and he concurred that the scheme is simply not working in Donegal and many other areas.
The community-based CCTV scheme is governed by section 38(3)(c) of the Garda Síochána 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006, SI 289/2006, both of which I have read. A difficulty with the legislation is that the local authority is specified as the data controller with no other person or body allowed to take this role. Many local authorities contend it is not their role as local government to monitor or control CCTV, particularly in cases involving criminality. There is a perception that proposed new schemes encountered data protection difficulties and were unable to proceed.
The Data Protection Commissioner issued clear guidelines which clarify her position with regard to the application of data protection law to community-based CCTV schemes. That guidance states that data protection legislation does not stand in the way of the roll-out of community-based CCTV schemes authorised by the Garda Commissioner. As long as the relevant local authority is willing to take on and deliver on its responsibilities as controller of the schemes, there is no legal impediment under data protection legislation to the scheme commencing. The nub of the problem is that some local authorities are unwilling or unable to take on that onerous role. I can see the logic in their stance.
Another issue is that CCTV under the sole monitoring responsibility of a local authority will not be monitored live. Several members of An Garda Síochána told me that the first 48 hours in the investigation of an incident is crucial. If a young person was abducted from a street in Dundalk and the Garda needed access to crucial CCTV footage, it would have to wait until the local authority opens on Monday morning in order to access it.
Although I do not wish to be parochial or solely focus on my constituency of Louth, all of the issues to which I refer are borne out there. Several applications are encountering problems, including in Moneymore in Drogheda, Ardee, my native Knockbridge, Dundalk, Blackrock and Monasterboice. They have all encountered the same basic deficiency and problem in the scheme. There are logical problems which need to be ironed out. The local authority has stated it is okay with the scheme but there is much uncertainty regarding the volume of schemes that may come on stream. How will the local authority record and store the amount of information which would be involved? Will it have the resources to put into this task?
In addition, every CCTV system must be calibrated. If a person is attacked outside a nightclub, there must be a maintenance contract with the provider of the CCTV and evidence it is properly calibrated in order for footage of an attack outside a nightclub, for example, to be admissible in court.