Ombudsman Warns Over BWV Footage As Solicitor Complains

The Police Ombudsman is warning officers to monitor their use of Body Worn Video recordings after a solicitor complained he had not been informed of filming.

An officer was found to have breached guidelines while visiting a west Belfast solicitor's office in January 2019 and recording the exchange of money without informing the professional.

Watchdog investigations determined that while the camera had started recording before the officer entered an area of the premises market 'private', the solicitor was unaware until he noticed a red light flashing on the device.

Ombudsman Marie Anderson warned that all filming should be overtly obvious and subjects should be made well aware that they are being recorded.

The complaint was lodged after the police officer returned a sum of cash to one of the solicitor's clients and recorded the exchange in order to protect both herself and the solicitor in light of a previous allegation made by the owner of the money.
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The solicitor complained, however, that it was a "breakdown of trust and courtesy" that he was not asked to consent to filming, as he would have refused.

The footage captured documents sitting in different parts of the office and audio of a number of staff members from the legal firm as they engaged in phone calls.

Watchdog investigators noted that the recording took place within "a private area of a solicitor's office where a high degree of privacy and confidentiality is expected".

"In this environment, even if completely unintended, there was the potential to capture personal and legally privileged information, as well as confidential communications," they added.

The officer claimed that it had slipped her mind and said that neither she, nor anyone else, had viewed the footage before it was submitted to the investigation.

While the Ombudsman recommended that the officer be disciplined, the PSNI chose to address the issue by implementing measures to improve her performance.


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