Can CCTV in a missing persons investigation be seized other than by a DPA request?

27 May 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

Do police have any powers (other than a DPA request) to seize CCTV from a premises during a live high risk missing persons investigation? The premises refused us access to the CCTV.

Answer: 

Other than a DPA request, CCTV could be seized under section 19 of PACE. Although in using section 19, officers need to bear in mind the use of any evidence at court. A power is only available to a constable who is 'lawfully on the premises', the evidence must be in relation to an offence and it must be necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence being concealed, lost, altered or destroyed. Please also note that section 19 does not in itself, provide any power of search.

Evidence in relation to an offence means facts to support an investigation and is not to be confused with relevant evidence which means admissible evidence at court. There is no definition for the term 'lawfully on the premises' within the Act, therefore the ordinary meaning should be applied being 'a way which is allowed or permitted by law'. This includes where the officer has been given permission by the owner of the premises, where the constable has entered the premises for the purpose of arrest under section 17, or when the constable has a warrant. From the information provided it does not appear the officer would have a power of entry to be held to be lawfully on the premises.

Furthermore, although it could theoretically be seized under section 19 if a constable was 'lawfully on the premises' if it is to be used as evidence admissible in court it is important it is obtained lawfully. Where there is doubt that it has been obtained lawfully, it may be deemed inadmissible. It is for this reason, that it is advisable to follow the procedure in place for requesting CCTV under the Data Protection Act. We would also suggest seeking advice from your force data protection officer on the issue.

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