Morag Ellis QC, Commissary General of the Diocese of Canterbury, granted a Faculty to install CCTV cameras in the Grade 1 listed church of St Mary the Virgin Chartham. The proposal was part of the church’s partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund to widen public access. In her judgment, she set down principles to guide the determination of similar petitions in the Diocese. She reviewed secular legislation and guidance in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and the Data Protection Act 1998, deciding to follow the Government’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice voluntarily, as well as the Data Protection Commissioner’s statutory guidance. Applying these principles in a church context, she held that, whilst, in principle, CCTV cameras can pursue the proportionate aims of deterring crime and desecration and increasing personal security, the siting and scope of cameras are particularly important. She therefore ruled that the lens should not be trained on areas set aside for pastoral ministry, such as Sacramental Confession and healing, and that there should be no filming during services. A designated person or persons should be responsible for the security of the equipment and data collected and for dealing with any complaints. A notice should advise visitors of the use of CCTV cameras and when they will and will not be in use. The equipment automatically overrides and a condition was imposed that this should happen monthly. Taking these measures and detailed considerations as to sensitive siting into account, she was able to conclude that there would be no harm to the heritage significance of the building or its character and function as a place of prayer.
Morag Ellis QC