If one or more CCTV cameras have been placed upon a neighbour’s property and are pointed in the direction of your home, it’s important to realise that doesn’t necessarily mean that they see your every move. The range of many cameras is quite short.
Nevertheless, it can make you feel uncomfortable and anxious, especially if you have been having problems with the neighbours.
If you have reason to believe that the CCTV camera(s) are recording you or members of your family because they are very close to your home, if true, this would be a breach of the Data Protection Act.
You are perfectly entitled to write a Subject Access Letter to the neighbour, requesting information gathered by the CCTV camera(s). Information Commissioner’s Office has a template letter on a Microsoft Word document pop-up. Use search and ‘subject access letter template’.
You’ll need to take out the stuff about personnel file, medical records, bank records and expand the details on the CCTV. For example, if the camera (s) are on the side of your neighbour’s home you need to specify the cameras on the side elevation facing (give your house name/number) so that s/he doesn’t wriggle out of giving you the information (images).
You will also need to specify a date and time when you know that you were in front of the camera(s) or a period of time.
Don’t make any accusations. Keep a copy.
It would be worthwhile having a chat with the ICO on their helpline 0303 123 1113 (Monday-Friday 09:00 – 17:00) or using (same days/hours) ICO Live Chat
The result you hope to get is footage showing that images of you or members of your family have been captured by the neighbour’s CCTV cameras beyond the boundaries of the property, thus breaking the Data Protection Act.
If you’re unlucky, the neighbour may get incensed by the Subject Access Letter and up the level of Harassment. In which case you call 101, ask for a police officer to call and get an incident number from the call taker. Keep a note of this.
Don’t retaliate at the neighbour/s verbally or physically. Preferably. don’t speak or write notes to them at all (other than legal stuff).
When the police officer visits show him/her a copy of the letter, so that s/he sees it’s a simple information request, using an ICO template. The police officer may try to tell you that it’s a civil matter – and the Data Protection Act is but Harassment resulting from a legal information request is a police matter.
Do make sure you keep calm and are polite to police officers, however angry and upset you are. They have a very difficult job and getting upset with a police officer doesn’t do you any favours.
You will be asked by the police officer, why you sent the subject access letter and the simple truthful answer is that you are concerned about a potential loss of privacy. DO mention it if a camera is aimed in the direction of a child’s bedroom.
The police officer can talk to the neighbour about the cameras and advise him/her to comply with the letter to show that the cameras are protecting the property not breaching your privacy.
The police officer can also request to see the neighbour’s live CCTV footage and if s/he believes that the cameras breach either Home Office guidelines or the Data Protection Act the police officer can make suggestions. Some police forces will make a record of CCTV cameras that DO comply, so that they can reassure people in the area if they get complaints.
Bottom line is the police can’t act on breaches of the Data Protection Act, only on Harassment.
The neighbour has 40 days to comply with the subject access letter request. The ICO can advise on the course of action to take if the neighbour doesn’t comply.
If you’re lucky, the neighbour will transfer the CCTV images to a DVD or memory stick and you will find that the neighbour is breaching the Data Protection Act. If so, go to the ICO and ask for advice on your next step.
If you are really lucky, the neighbour will have forgotten to edit out times when s/he was harassing you, in front of cameras and you then have evidence, voluntarily given to you, of Harassment.
You need to have firmly stuck in your brain, what constitutes a course of conduct and the timeframe within which it has to be committed.
Some police forces take neighbour issues seriously and have a unit to deal with them in plain clothes (non-uniformed) and will use the Protection from Harassment Act.
Others won’t send the same (uniformed) officer twice and will try to send PCSOs. In some forces, this means that nothing you tell the PCSO about an incident of Harassment will go further than their notebook. It won’t be added to the police computer as a CAD. That’s why it’s important to ask the calltaker on 101 for the incident number and any time you call, to give them previous incident number and ask them to make sure that they are all linked together.
If you are an EU citizen or a partner or family member is, it’s important to let any police officers visiting know that the Harassment is against a person or people with Protected Characteristics under Section 9b Equality Act 2010 -Legislation.gov.uk
This helps them to differentiate the incidents happening to you, from run of the mill neighbour disputes.
If you get nowhere with police despite obvious Harassment, search the local police force website for ‘organisational complaints’ and start one. This is where linking the CAD numbers is handy, as it gives the investigating officer a trail to follow. If you have a diary of any incidents give the officer a copy when s/he comes to interview you.
The investigation may conclude that you/family members have been harassed and steps will be taken to rectify that (including reprimand of police officers) or you may be told that the police force acted properly within its own policies if your local police force doesn’t use the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
If you have the stamina, you can still complain, this time to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The independent part is a bit of a misnomer, as the investigation will be carried out by your local police force, albeit under IPCC rules.
EU27 citizens can complain about Harassment and police non-action (if applicable) to local MP. Some are brilliant and will help you with police force and their influence can be useful. Others will refuse to get involved. Depends entirely on the MP.
Harassment generally – getting support
The London Borough of Wandsworth has set up an advice centre for EU27 citizens. It’s worth checking locally if that’s available too and if not – ask. London Borough of Wandsworth Citizen’s Advice Service
If you/family member is experiencing Harassment as an EU citizen, you can contact Your Europe Advice and also any applicable embassies with the story so far. Advisable not to name neighbour though.
The 3 Million is a campaigning organisation for EU27 citizens in UK but also has a forum for support.
Your GP can refer you for counselling (there may be a long wait) or you may be able to get counselling from a local charity which provides this.
You can self-refer to Victim Support and you can get phone counselling, a personal alarm, help with form-filling – all sorts of things. They are really helpful.
Citizens Advice is good for general advice. The website will ask you which UK country you live in, because the law in England and Wales differs from that of Scotland or Northern Ireland. There is no such thing as ‘British law’.
Legal Aid Eligibility – Gov.uk it doesn’t hurt to check whether you are eligible, should you need it.
It’s also worth looking at your household insurance policy. If you have legal insurance, you may find that your insurance policy will pay out for a private prosecution of your neighbour(s) if the police won’t.
Some unions and professional memberships offer legal helplines as do some Co-op societies for members.
Have private medical insurance ? Again check your policy, because you may be eligible for free counselling at a private clinic.
If you work for a large company (whatever your role), check your benefits. You may be eligible for counselling. It isn’t your fault that you are experiencing Harassment and a top employer will want all employees firing on all cylinders.
Don’t forget, that you can ask your GP to sign you off sick with stress if you need a breather.
Children may need some support. Relate offers counselling for children and young people. Schools may offer counselling – contact the school office.
If the neighbour has children in the same school as your child/ren DO tell the school about the harassment AND impress upon the school the need for confidentiality, since you don’t want your child to suffer retaliatory bullying. Inform the school of the Protected Characteristics of any children Section 9b of the Equality Act 2010 applies to.
You may wish to ask for school transfer/s for your child/ren or to home school.
There are Saturday schools and indeed full-time schools for some EU nationalities, if you can afford it and live in the catchment area. This could help your child/ren feel less isolated.
Polish Saturday School, Plymouth
Finnish School of Brighton
Bilingual Primary School, Brighton & Hove (Spanish & English)
Buenos Dias, Brighton – Spanish nursery, Saturday school and after hours club
Svenska Skolan – Swedish School, London
Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, London
There are community associations and groups available for EU27 nationals in UK
Agency for Bulgarians Abroad
Association of Estonians in Great Britain
Sussex Hungarian Cultural Association
Latviesiem – website for Latvians in UK
Crawley Lithuanian Society
Poles In Hastings
Cypriot Community Centre, London
Irish in Britain
Maltese Community Online
Associazione Italiani Del Sussex
Crawley Portuguese Community Facebook
Polish Association in Kent Facebook
Not all EU27 represented here let alone all regions but a bit of Googling will find more.
In any situation eg harassment at home, bullying of children in school, if you find others who have experienced it, you’ll get helpful tips at the very least and if you band together, you amplify your voices.
If you find a number of people in the same council ward or children in one particular school suffering, it’s evident that there’s a problem. You can get together and demand a meeting with police, community safety partnership, councillors. MP, education authorities etc. Get local media involved, ask local Remain groups for support and protest.
Nationality is a Protected Characteristic and you still have same rights as EU citizens as before the referendum.
Please note that this is general advice based on personal experience, not legal advice. You can get that from Community Legal Advice