A question that we are asked a lot by industry professionals but also by clients, whether that be private or corporate: Is it legal to film into a private building? Or is it legal to film from private land to private land? Or private land to public?
The law as per our understanding states that you can lawfully gain footage from public land into a private building or land if it can be seen by the naked eye. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Let’s look into various examples of each.
Filming from Public to Private
So, an example may be that the client’s instruction is to gain evidence of how their child is being treated whilst with their estranged partner. There is a suspicion of both physical and mental harm whilst in estranged partner’s custody.
A period of five hours of static observations is instructed utilising one surveillance operative. The surveillance operative is within the hide of their camera platform outside the address in question on public land. The operative observes the child being shouted at by the estranged partner within the property on the ground floor to the point that the child is cowering away in fear. This activity progresses to the child being slapped with a hand around the head.
So, our objective is to gain evidence of physical or mental harm to the child. The operative is on public land and anyone walking past at that time could see what was happening. There is clearly no harassment, alarm or distress intended by the operative and there is no question of voyeurism. To film this would be completely legal.
If the scenario was slightly different, so this time it’s a static surveillance to record all persons coming and going from an address with the clear objective of identifying if a certain known individual attends. A person is seen entering the property who is not the person of interest and identifying imagery is captured on video. During the deployment the person seen entering earlier can be seen within the address from the public land where the operative is situated and anyone walking past would be able to also see. The operative decides to gain footage of this person. Is this legal?
Yes, it is. However, criticism could be made as the operative has identifying imagery of this person already when they entered so there is no direct requirement. I would suggest that in this scenario that imagery shouldn’t be gained as it isn’t justifiable.
Filming Private to Private
So, can a surveillance operative film from private land into a private building? In this scenario we will use a matrimonial instruction as an example. The client believes that their partner is having an extra marital affair and surveillance is imposed. The subject of the investigation drives to a hotel and meets up with an individual. They have dinner together and then walk hand in hand to the subject’s hotel room and the door is closed. The surveillance operatives pinpoint the room from outside on the ground floor from the hotel car park. The curtains aren’t drawn, and a clear view can be obtained of activities happening within the room and anyone walking past could also observe this. Can the surveillance operatives’ film this?
No! Unless permission is gained from the private landowner, the operatives cannot film in this instance.
So, what are the consequences if the operatives do film? An offence of civil trespass could be made by the landowner in this instance and the evidence would not be admissible in a court as it was gained unlawfully.
Filming Private to Public
The next scenario we will look at gaining imagery from private land to public land.
So, the instruction is to observe a subject in a small public open space where they are fly tipping. The operatives don’t feel that they can enter the park due to the exposure they have gained during the surveillance to date. So, one operative gains a position with a view from a private residents only car park without the permission of the landowners. Is it legal to gain evidential footage?
Technically speaking no, as the landowner has not provided permission. However, once the landowner knows of the reason, they may provide retrospective permission meaning that the imagery was gained lawfully and fully admissible in court.
It’s quite simple really. You can film from public to private but not from private to private or private to public without the landowner’s permission. The objectives of the deployment however will add weight whether you can justify it as an individual.
Who do I contact for further surveillance advice?
For further advice and information in regard to private investigation or hiring a covert surveillance operative, then please feel free to speak to one of our professional team at one of the offices nearest to you.
London Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations London Office 020 39046622
Birmingham Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Birmingham Office 0121 7162442
Cambridge Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Cambridge Office 01223 662022
Derby Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Derby (Head Office) 01332 504256
Leeds GSurveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Leeds Office 0113 4574066
Leicester Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Leicester Office 0116 2436520
Nottingham Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Nottingham Office 0115 9646950
Manchester Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Office 0161 3023008
Sheffield Surveillance Operatives – Call the Titan Investigations Sheffield Office 0114 3499400
Alternatively, you can contact us directly using our fully confidential contact form at email@example.com or chat directly using our Live Chat facility and one of our private investigations team will get right back to you.