Sound surveillance plan for all Oxford taxis

Clive D.W. Feather clive at
Sat Nov 19 20:56:19 GMT 2011

Charles Lindsey said:
>> "Despite being in clear breach of the guidance issued by the Information
>> Commissioners Office (ICO) and a gross invasion of privacy, Oxford Council
>> has decided to make it a condition for all licensed black cabs in the city
>> to record both audio and video.

> Sounds like a breach of RIPA even if of nothing else. If Plod wanted to  
> make such a recording, he would have to get a warrant/whatever. But to  
> record a private conversation is interception of communications according  
> to RIPA, and prior consent of both parties is required, as we have often  
> discussed here.

This isn't interception, since there's no communication within the meaning
of Part I (which requires a public telecommunication system, a private
telecommunication system - which must be connected to a public one - or a
public postal service).

If it's anything in RIPA, it's a Part II offence. But:

26(2) Subject to subsection (6), surveillance is directed for the purposes
of this Part if it is covert but not intrusive and is undertaken -
(a) for the purposes of a specific investigation or a specific operation;

So it's not directed.

(3) Subject to subsections (4) to (6), surveillance is intrusive for the
purposes of this Part if, and only if, it is covert surveillance that -
(a) is carried out in relation to anything taking place on any residential
premises or in any private vehicle; and
(b) involves the presence of an individual on the premises or in the vehicle
or is carried out by means of a surveillance device.

[(4) to (6) aren't relevant in this context]

That's better, but is a taxi a "private vehicle"? If it is, then an
authorisation is needed which, under 32(3):

... is necessary -
(a) in the interests of national security;
(b) for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime; or
(c) in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.

I doubt either this or the proportionality test is satisfied.

Unless I've missed an S.I., no council officers are able to issue an

But, anyway, back to "private vehicle", we have to look at 48(1):

"private vehicle" means (subject to subsection (7)(a)) any vehicle which is
used primarily for the private purposes of the person who owns it or of a
person otherwise having the right to use it;

and (7)(a) clearly excludes taxis:

the reference to a person having the right to use a vehicle does not, in
relation to a motor vehicle, include a reference to a person whose right to
use the vehicle derives only from his having paid, or undertaken to pay,
for the use of the vehicle and its driver for a particular journey

So, I don't think RIPA Part II is relevant.

(In any case, you've got to show a separate offence. An authorisation under
Part II makes otherwise unlawful behaviour lawful, but failure to get one
doesn't make behaviour unlawful per se.)

Clive D.W. Feather          | If you lie to the compiler,
Email: clive at     | it will get its revenge.
Web:  |   - Henry Spencer
Mobile: +44 7973 377646

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