Don’t Spy on Me

No. 10 of #50cases.

Geoffrey Peck suffered from severe depression. Walking alone down the high street of Brentwood one night in 1995, he attempted to tried to take his own life.  A CCTV operator spotted him via a camera as he leaned over a railing at a junction, facing the traffic with a knife in his hand. This case saw him fight for his right to privacy, after the CCTV footage became widely circulated.

The police were quickly notified of the situation. Geoffrey did not seem like he was a threat but nonetheless could come to harm. He was detained, treated by doctors and released. It seemed like this was the safe conclusion to a terrible episode in Geoffrey’s life – but what happened to the CCTV footage?

The council agreed to authorise the release of regular press features, first appearing in their CCTV News, and then picked up by two widely circulated local newspapers. Next, Anglia Television was given footage of the incident for broadcast, and finally, the incident was featured on the BBC show ‘Crime Beat’. All of these publications and broadcasts failed to properly mask his identity in the photos and footage, making him readily identifiable to anyone who knew him. Geoffrey was taunted by neighbours and suffered cruel jokes and abuse. People assumed he was committing a criminal act with the knife, and he was forced to explain his illness to his family.

When he took the case to court, the judge found that Brentwood Borough Council interfered with his right to a private life, as covered by Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. This was a significant change to the law of privacy. He was given damages for the distress, anxiety, embarrassment and frustration he experienced – closure on a traumatic event.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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