CCTV is an increasingly common part of our lives. If your car is involved in an accident, there’s a good chance CCTV footage will capture the moment and possibly even reveal the guilty party and help in the detection of crime. But how do you request CCTV footage? It’s not as easy as you might think but in most cases it is possible if you put a little effort in.
Are you allowed to ask for CCTV footage?
Yes, you can access CCTV footage that contains your image either in writing or verbally. This is called a Subject Access Request or SAR. You should get a response from whoever you applied to within one calendar month of asking.
But you can’t request CCTV footage of someone else. And that includes whoever bumped their car into yours.
Can I request CCTV footage from a local authority or car park operator?
All CCTV footage captured by bodies such as local authorities or businesses is controlled by data protection laws. This is policed by the UK government’s Information Commissioner’s Office. You can request the images but may not get it if it has other people in it.
Operators need to follow strict laws around what they do with any images they capture. These include making sure people know they’re being filmed, saying why CCTV cameras are being used, controlling access to the footage and deleting that footage when it’s no longer necessary.
How do you request CCTV footage?
As we’ve seen, you have the right to view the footage. But first you need to find out who owns it. The owner of the CCTV might be different to the owner of the land. But you should be able to see who owns it by viewing details on the signs at the site.
Once you know that, if you visit their website, you’ll find that some organisations such as car park operators NCP and Q-Park or local authorities have forms to enable you to access their CCTV. You will probably have to supply contact details and at least one form of identification to accompany your footage request.
Can car insurance companies get footage?
If you contact your insurer, it will be able to request footage under Schedule 2, Part 1 (5) of the 2018 Data Protection Act. The council or business holding the footage will probably charge for this but that recording could save you or your insurer money.
Can the police request footage?
The easiest way to get the footage of your car being damaged is to involve the police. Crime detection is after all their job. They can ask whoever has it to see the footage and it will be provided to the officer, for example if there’s a criminal investigation. But this only applies if the information is still held so you need to act before the footage is deleted.
How long is CCTV footage kept?
How far back CCTV camera images go depends on the individual or organisation. Some might only keep their footage for 72 hours. But police recommend authorities and organisations keep their film for at least 31 days.
The bottom line is, the sooner you apply to get the CCTV footage you need, the more likely you are to be successful.
Can I request dashcam footage?
If your accident or car being damaged was captured by another driver’s dashcam or someone’s house CCTV, you can request it from them. If the police are involved, they can request the footage too.
CCTV images can be used in court to prove someone’s guilt – or innocence. If you request and get someone’s dashcam footage, you must be confident that you’re in the right. If someone’s dashcam footage of your accident shows you were in the wrong, the judge can use it against you.
Why get the CCTV footage?
Depending on how serious the damage is, someone is going to have to pay to fix it. If your car is owned on a PCP or lease and you don’t get the damage fixed, you’ll be penalised by the finance company when you hand the car back.
If you claim on your insurance, you’ll have to pay an excess. But if you can prove someone else was responsible, you or your insurer might be able to get them to pay. The CCTV footage is that proof.
Do you need the CCTV footage?
Think about the damage, how much it will cost to repair and whether you want to claim for it. Ask how big your insurance excess is: if it’s only a small bit of damage, it might work out cheaper to chalk it up to bad luck and pay for it out of your own pocket.
How hard is it getting CCTV images?
If you or your insurance company want to take legal action against someone, that’s a slightly different matter. You should write to whoever owns the camera and explain this. It still may not be straightforward.
Whoever owns the cameras must then work out whether your request is genuine or not. If it is, they will have to find the relevant piece of CCTV footage. If they have multiple cameras, this could be easier said than done. And if you can’t give a precise time when the damage occurred it’ll be even more time consuming for them.
Then, before they can give you the footage, they’ll have to obscure the identity of any unrelated people on film. They’ll probably make it difficult for you purely because of the time and aggravation involved in finding and treating the relevant footage.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.