Court says audio recording in taxis is “invasive” and “disproportionate”

A ruling by Southampton Crown Court has sent a clear message to local authorities across the country – a policy of mandatory audio recording in taxis is unlawful, being both disproportionate and a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case – Southampton City Council v Kevin May, is the first challenge against mandatory audio recording and comes weeks after Oxford council said it planned to introduce the policy.

The judgement said: “It was not reasonably necessary to install audio cameras on a permanent basis in all taxis in Southampton to pursue the council aims of preventing crime and disorder and improving safety.”

The case evaluated the arguments put forward in favour of a system and comprehensively found Southampton Council was acting in breach of the law to enforce the policy.

At paragraph 71 of the ruling, the court reaffirms this point, saying: “The condition does not correspond to a pressing social need, is not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and is not necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

However, the court ruled that it did not have the power to overturn the policy, and that it would require a judicial review to force the council to abandon it. This technicality in no way alters the fact that the court has ruled the policy is unlawful, and it would be an absurdity if Southamton City Council were to continue with the policy.

Big Brother Watch is calling for Southampton, Oxford and any other local authority considering this issue to abandon a policy which has now been established as “disproportionate and a violation of Article 8” by a Court.

We have written to Oxford City Council calling for them to abandon their policy without delay on the basis of this decision.