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Warning over CCTV cameras

The ACT's closed circuit cameras could be under threat following a legal ruling in NSW.

The ACT's closed circuit cameras could be under threat following a legal ruling in NSW. Photo: Supplied

A HUMAN rights expert from the Australian National University has warned the ACT's network of closed-circuit television cameras could potentially be shut down on the grounds they are an invasion of privacy, after a successful legal challenge to cameras in NSW.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell ordered an urgent review of CCTV cameras earlier this month after a ruling from the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal on CCTV cameras in Nowra's central business district raised doubts about their legality.

The cameras, owned by Shoalhaven City Council and monitored by NSW police, were switched off after the the tribunal ruled privacy laws had been breached under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998.

ANU professor Peter Bailey said the capital's Human Rights Act would strengthen arguments that CCTV cameras breach privacy.

''In the Human Rights Act, it says everyone has a right to privacy … if someone took exception to some of the cameras that are around here, then they would be able to say that it was an unreasonable invasion of privacy,'' Professor Bailey said.

He said cameras in trouble spots and dark alleys would be harder to challenge but cameras in well-lit areas of the city could be infringing on residents' rights.

''The [tribunal] might find that, because of our right to privacy, the cameras were in breach of that right … and the government hasn't [shown] that by having CCTV cameras you are stopping violence.''

But the ACT government said one finding against a NSW council would not impact on the ACT's network of CCTV cameras.

A spokesman from the Justice and Community Safety Directorate said the ACT was covered by different legislation and regulation to NSW.

''Privacy was a key consideration in the planning, development and installation of CCTV systems in the ACT,'' the spokesman said. ''The information gathered from the Public Safety CCTV Network in the ACT is in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 [Commonwealth and] Human Rights Act 2004.''

The Justice and Community Safety Directorate co-ordinates 72 cameras across Canberra.

Territory and Municipal Services has about 2000 cameras on ACTION buses and a further 393 cameras across the ACT at waste facilities, cemeteries, national parks, Canberra Connect shop fronts, libraries and bus stops.

Images from the government-owned cameras are recorded 24 hours a day and kept for 30 days.

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