In 2017, it was reported to Refugee Council - a charity working with refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK - that a private security company, on contract with the British Home Office to provide accommodation for people in the asylum system, had started wearing body cameras during accommodation visits. The private security company alleged that this was a safety precaution for both the Welfare Officers and asylum seekers, but many NGOs, including the Refugee Council, were deeply concerned by the practice.
Refugee Council contacted TrustLaw for legal advice on whether the use of body cameras is lawful in these circumstances, taking into consideration human rights law, privacy laws and data protection laws. They received pro bono legal advice from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, who provided a summary of the legal requirements and constraints applicable if a provider of asylum accommodation contracted by the Home Office chooses to equip staff who interact with residents with body-worn cameras.
Understanding the legal framework was critical for Maurice Wren, CEO of Refugee Council who advocated for the protection and privacy of asylum seekers to Home Office officials. “I felt [this] was necessary, particularly given the vulnerability and, in practical terms, the powerlessness of many of the people housed in asylum accommodation,” he said.
Through conversations between Refugee Council and the Home Office, and using the legal summaries provided by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, it was decided to delay the introduction of body-worn cameras, pending the involvement of the Information Commissioner's Office and the consequent issuing guidance to residents about their rights in respect to data access and privacy.
The Refugee Council and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP have been nominated for the “Impact Award” at the 2018 TrustLaw Awards.