The Rights And Wrongs Of Covert Video Surveillance

May 22, 1998

(Concerns about using and interpreting covert video surveillance)

(Commentary: Covert video surveillance is acceptable - but only with a rigorous protocol)

Covert video surveillance is an infringement of the liberty of the parent and child and should be undertaken only as a last resort, writes Professor Colin Morley from Addenbrooke's Hospital in this week's BMJ. He argues that the scenes witnessed by observers are open to misinterpretation, for example, playing with the child by putting a hand over its face, making it difficult for the parent to defend himself or herself.

In an accompanying commentary, Professor Alan Craft from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, argues that the perceived "infringement" of the civil liberty of the parent is no greater than "the massive amount of video surveillance to which the public in general is subjected in an attempt to prevent crime". Craft says that the needs of the child are paramount and the surveillance procedure is intended only as a safeguard for children and their siblings. Craft concludes that children have a right to protection from abuse and ill treatment and that covert video surveillance is an important tool to help professionals make the correct decision on behalf of children.


Professor Colin Morley, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

Professor Alan Craft, Sir James Spence Professor of Child Health, Department of Child Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne


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