Why Recording CCTV is Illegal in These Courthouses

By: Carlton Purvis, Published on Mar 13, 2014

Americans expect to see surveillance cameras inside government buildings, especially courtrooms where emotions run high, violent criminals are being transported back and forth, and there’s always an air of unfinished business. In some parts of Canada, however, recording is prohibited in courthouses -- and that’s not just a ban for media, it includes CCTV. In this note, we examine the recent attention focused on Ontario courts after citizens noticed a dome camera in one courtroom.

Background

The Ontario Court of Justice in Caledon, Ontario is under fire for installing a surveillance camera in its courtroom. A few citizens noticed it and tipped off the Toronto Sun. They feel it is a violation of a law that prohibits video recording in courtrooms.

The court says the camera was installed last year. In an interview with court manager, Darlene Noakes, she told me the camera was installed for security and to allow the court officer to simultaneously take care of administrative work while watching over the courtroom.

The Toronto Sun says the court is worried about an up-and-coming violent libertarian movement, however, Noakes says the installation was not in response to any specific threats.

Apparently there was an incident a few years ago too:

The Law

The Ontario Courts of Justice Act prohibits anyone from making video recordings of court proceedings. Specifically, the law says “no person shall take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording or other record capable of producing visual or aural representations by electronic means or otherwise.”

But the recording ban doesn’t just apply to the courtroom, it also prohibits recording people entering or leaving the courtroom or making video recordings of anyone in the building who may be there “for the purpose of attending or leaving a hearing.” That probably covers most people in a courthouse.

If a person was to record they could face a $25,000 fine or six months in jail [link no longer available], or both. The exception to the law is audio recordings which are allowed as long as they are done in an “unobtrusive manner.”

Ontario is the only jurisdiction with this type recording restriction, but overall, electronic coverage of trials in Canada is rare, according to the Canadian Journal of Communication.

Ontario's provincial law enforcement agency says they have seen similar setups in other Ontario courtrooms and that it is legal.


Camera The Most Cost Effective Option

“What we were really looking for when we did the court renovation was a one-way window that would be sufficient for the officer to work and to view the courtroom. This was actually a cheaper alternative. We called it a digital window," Noakes said. The purchase and installation was approved by a regional justice of the peace. They paid $508 for it.

The camera, an Axis M3006 (installed in a corner overlooking the room), is not recording. The court staff interprets the law to mean cameras and recording devices can be present in the courtroom as long as they are not recording or attempting to record. For example, a man was arrested in 2010, not for having a camera in the courtroom, but for refusing to stop recording [link no longer available].

“There are no plans to do any recording, that would be illegal,” Noakes said.

The Toronto Sun questions the effectiveness of that setup.

“What use is a live feed to a multi-tasking court officer if someone suddenly bursts into the courtroom when his eyes are averted?” the paper asks.

Noakes says it's better than the option they had before a camera. The court officer is required to watch the courtroom and complete administrative work and the camera allows him to more effectively do both, she said. In the past an officer had to split his time between the courtroom and the office, leaving the courtroom with no eyes on it at all.

The main value of surveillance cameras is for evidence after the fact. Will this camera help stop a person from pouring a can of gasoline all over the place? Probably not. But it would at least let the court officer see the smoke.

Comments (4) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

The US Fight Over Facial Recognition Explained on Jul 08, 2020
The controversy around facial recognition has grown significantly in 2020,...
Cisco Video Surveillance Is Dead, Long Live Cisco Meraki Video Surveillance on Feb 11, 2020
A dozen years ago much of the industry thought that Cisco was destined to...
Faked Coronavirus Fever Detection, Athena Used Hikvision; Responds - Selling NDAA Compliant Cameras, Pledging 50% Of Profits to Victims on Mar 24, 2020
US company, Athena Security, faked its coronavirus fever detection marketing,...
Coronavirus Impacting Hikvision and China Manufacturers on Feb 03, 2020
The coronavirus epidemic spreading through China has started to impact video...
Access Visitor Management Systems Guide on Jul 22, 2020
"Who are you, and why are you here?" Facilities that implement Visitor...
Delayed Egress Access Control Tutorial on Feb 04, 2020
Delayed Egress marks one of the few times locking people into a building is...
Integrators Hard Hit By Coronavirus on Mar 18, 2020
Integrators are already being hard hit by Coronavirus as brand new IPVM...
ADI Branch Burglary on Apr 03, 2020
A security systems distributor branch is an odd target for burglary but that...
UK Stands Behind Hikvision But Controversy Continues on Feb 18, 2020
Hikvision is exhibiting at a UK government conference for law enforcement,...
Pivot3 Mass Layoffs on Mar 27, 2020
Pivot3 has conducted mass layoffs, the culmination of grand hopes, a quarter...
Dynamic vs Static IP Addresses Tutorial on Apr 16, 2020
While many cameras default to DHCP out of the box, that does not mean you...
Facial Recognition: Weak Sales, Anti Regulation, No Favorite, Says Security Integrators on Jul 07, 2020
While facial recognition has gained greater prominence, a new IPVM study of...
Latest London Police Facial Recognition Suffers Serious Issues on Feb 24, 2020
On February 20, IPVM visited another live face rec deployment by London...
Trade Groups Request NDAA Blacklist Delay Citing Coronavirus on Apr 06, 2020
Two trade groups representing government contractors have asked Congress to...
Manufacturers on Virtual 'ISC West' 2020 and Potential ISC West 2021 on Jun 29, 2020
With the 2020 ISC West show now officially canceled, attention turns to...

Recent Reports

Dangerous Hikvision Fever Camera Showcased by Chilean City on Aug 07, 2020
Deploying a fever camera outdoors, in the rain, with no black body, is...
"Grand Slam" For Pelco's PE Firm, A Risk For Motorola on Aug 07, 2020
The word "Pelco" and "grand slam" have not been said together for many years....
FLIR Stock Falls, Admits 'Decelerating' Demand For Temperature Screening on Aug 07, 2020
Is the boom going to bust for temperature screening? FLIR disappointed...
VSaaS Will Hurt Integrators on Aug 06, 2020
VSaaS will hurt integrators, there is no question about that. How much...
Dogs For Coronavirus Screening Examined on Aug 06, 2020
While thermal temperature screening is the surveillance industry's most...
ADT Slides Back, Disappointing Results, Poor Commercial Performance on Aug 06, 2020
While ADT had an incredible start to the week, driven by the Google...
AHJ / Authority Having Jurisdiction Tutorial on Aug 06, 2020
One of the most powerful yet often underappreciated characters in all of the...
SIA Coaches Sellers on NDAA 889B Blacklist Workarounds on Aug 05, 2020
Last month SIA demanded that NDAA 899B "must be delayed". Now that they have...
ADI Returns To Growth, Back To 'Pre-COVID Levels' on Aug 05, 2020
While ADI was hit hard in April, with revenue declining 21%, the company's...
Exposing Fever Tablet Suppliers and 40+ Relabelers on Aug 05, 2020
IPVM has found 40+ USA and EU companies relabeling fever tablets designed,...
Indian Government Restricts PRC Manufacturers From Public Projects on Aug 04, 2020
In a move that mirrors the U.S. government’s ban on Dahua and Hikvision...
Directory of 201 "Fever" Camera Suppliers on Aug 04, 2020
This directory provides a list of "Fever" scanning thermal camera providers...
Face Masks Increase Face Recognition Errors Says NIST on Aug 04, 2020
COVID-19 has led to widespread facemask use, which as IPVM testing has shown...
Dahua Loses Australian Medical Device Approval on Aug 04, 2020
Dahua has cancelled its medical device registration after "discussions" with...
Google Invests in ADT, ADT Stock Soars on Aug 03, 2020
Google has announced a $450 million investment in the Florida-based security...