Helmet camera footage: The legal questions

Veho muvi helmet camera attached to Proviz helmet

This Friday I wanted to do an open Q&A with Access Legal lawyer Dave Escandell as a couple of questions have been arising regarding using helmet camera footage for prosecution and for uploading content to YouTube.

If you have any questions therefore please leave them in the comments.

Here are answers to two of the most common questions.

Getting prosecuted for uploading footage

“I started recently recoding every single commute to work on my Veho Muvi,
and had already caught a couple close calls.
Today in the morning I’ve been pushed almost to the curb by one of
the tourist buses in central London. I’ve got a pretty good record of
it, including the buses plate number, and the driver’s face.
I was wondering, what do you think – if I want to put these records
public (like YouTube) should I blur out the driver’s face and the bus
registration number, or should I leave them visible, for all to see?
If I leave them properly visible – can I be accused / prosecuted in
any way for that?”

My advice would also certainly be to keep things out of the public domain if the footage is intended to be used in a claim.

If generally one is posting on you tube images of bad driving then it is not essential that registration plates or faces are blanked out. I would also encourage sending footage of bad driving of company vehicles, to the company.

Using helmet camera footage for compensation

“Would footage from a helmet camera be used in a court to decide compensation?”

Yes, in the Civil Courts helmet cam footage can be used as admissible evidence.  Rather than decode compensation, it would aid in respect to liability, whose at fault.

So, the reality is that the footage would have been disclosed way before the need for a court appearance and the issue of liability should not be contested if the footage is clear. After all why would any defendant or their insurers proceed to what could be an expensive trial if it is clear who, on the balance of probabilities, was at fault.

That’s not to say that the issue of liability may be agreed, but court proceedings are needed for another contested issue, such as the value of the claim. Although in this type of proceedings the footage would not be needed.

Any more questions please leave them below..

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42 Responses to Helmet camera footage: The legal questions

  1. James Holden 25/02/2011 at 8:43 am #

    Good advice again, but don’t forget that the footage can lead both ways. Cyclists can be bad drivers too.

    If you’re hit by a left turning vehicle, and you submit footage that shows you going up the inside, things might not turn out how you expect!

    • Gaz 25/02/2011 at 9:57 am #

      You will find that most people that cycle with video cameras are pretty good cyclists and wouldn’t make the mistake of going up the inside of a left turning vehicle. Obviously there are exptions but we (the camera community) will jump right on them and let them know what they did wrong and how to improve.

    • Olly 25/02/2011 at 10:49 am #

      In what situations would a cyclist be in the wrong if hit by a vehicle turning left across the path of the cyclist?

      • Gaz 25/02/2011 at 11:14 am #

        If the cyclist started passing the vehicle on the left hand side before the junction and whilst the car was indicating to do so.

        • Olly 25/02/2011 at 11:29 am #

          And what if the cyclist started to pass the vehicle on the left before the junction, and the car wasn’t indicating left?

      • Gaz 25/02/2011 at 2:00 pm #

        It’s a tricky one, the driver should be at fault because they failed to check their mirrors and indicate clearly before the junction.

        BUT, as a cyclist you need to look out for yourself, doing things like undertaking cars towards a junction where they may turn across you path is a silly idea, even if they aren’t indicating. Reading the road and acting accordingly will save you from being hit.

        • aid 25/02/2011 at 6:24 pm #

          It is always illegal to move up on the left side (undertake) unless the vehicle is queueing to turn right or if you and the vehicle are separated by a solid white line (e.g. a bus lane).

          All passing or overtaking should be done on the right, as you would when driving on a motorway. Many cycle lanes encourage you to undertake however making it a grey area.

        • Tommi 25/02/2011 at 7:37 pm #

          @aid there is also the exception that “If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left”

          But I’m finding cycles lanes are rather enforcing the image “this is where you belong” which remains even in absence of white lines (at least I’m naturally drawn to left side rather than right) and so if there is space on the left that’s where you’ll probably go… Whether it’s enough space is anyone’s judgement.

        • Olly 25/02/2011 at 10:46 pm #

          It is tricky. In the situation I was in, there was a left turn up ahead, a queue of parked cars on the road further on, and a traffic island on the right, before the queue of cars. I was starting to pass the car on the left hand side, as to have passed it on the right would have been to impede the passage of the car (with the traffic island and queue of cars limiting the width of the road to a single car’s width). Then the driver turner left – with music on so loud that he didn’t even hear me when I rapped the side window!

        • Gaz 25/02/2011 at 11:11 pm #

          @aid it is not against the law for a cyclist to filter on either side of vehicles. Filtering meaning that the traffic you are passing is either traveling at a very low speed or stationary.

        • Tom 27/02/2011 at 1:51 pm #

          Is there a clear distinction between filtering and undertaking? Am I right in thinking you’re not allowed to pass traffic on the left if it is moving?

    • Phil Russell 26/02/2011 at 3:38 pm #

      James—-why not? Is it illegal to be riding on the “inside” of a vehicle, i.e. along the passenger side? If it’s legal, then isn’t it the driver’s fault if he turns across you “without due care and attention”? I merely ask the question, because 99% of cyclists might be breaking the law at all times…..
      P.R.

    • Seamus Hope 03/04/2011 at 9:21 pm #

      James, your post is spot on, I ride a motorcycle and bicycle in London and the amount of bad cyclists is slowly rising! The strangest thing is that many cyclists seem to be colour blind to RED lights, strange huh?

      Anyway, kudos!

      • James R Grinter 11/07/2013 at 9:17 am #

        New cyclists learn by what they see. In London, they see drivers/cars and cyclists gambling Ambers and blatantly going through Reds. So they do the same.

  2. Gaz 25/02/2011 at 10:06 am #

    I’ve looked into the legal implications of recording and uploading footage whilst on the road.
    The outcome, there is nothing illegal about it.
    The main issues are the recording and the displaying of information online.

    The recording isn’t an issue, as you are doing it for personal use. It’s basically similar to a tourist recording whilst sight seeing. I double checked this with the information commisioner, and it is correct.

    Uploading footage is also not an issue, the information you display in the video is all publically avaliable and can not be traced to the person that owns it by the general public, so you are not breaching any data protection laws.
    As for peoples faces, well if you nearly kill me, then i’m going to expose you for the person you really are.

    • Nicole 25/02/2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Gaz

      You need to be careful of privacy issues here, and the footage can be traced if you want to look hard enough. Article 8 of the ECHR, now enshrined into domestic law by the Human Rights Act, gives every individual a right to a private and family life, breach of which can lead to a civil action and a claim for damages or at the very least, take down. And you could also be in breach of the DPA in certain circumstances.

      • Gaz 25/02/2011 at 11:34 pm #

        Nicole,

        I don’t think Article 8 of the ECHR applies to this, the videos show people behaving in a manor which is putting vulnerable road users at risk and in many cases breaking the law. This isn’t a breach of anyones ‘private and family life, his home and his correspondence’

        I’ve had drivers ask me to remove the footage from youtube, and i have done. If people admit they made a mistake and say they will try and improve then job done.

        The video cycling community will stick up for it’s own, if someone tries to take me or another one of us to court, then they will have to fight a lot more than one of us.

        • Nicole 28/02/2011 at 2:22 pm #

          It applies in every sphere Gaz. You’re wrong to imagine it doesn’t apply to you. Naming and shaming might not be considered to be in the public interest. It will depend on the circumstances and whether an offence has been committed. Bad driving might not constitute grounds for invading someone’s privacy if they haven’t committed an offence or caused an accident which could be the result of a civil claim. As a lawyer who has to deal with privacy issues on a day-to-day basis, I’d say be carefull. The video cycling community isn’t Google and even they were forced to back down!

      • Gaz 01/03/2011 at 1:19 pm #

        Nicole, I will agree that the ECHR might affect uploaded footage, if we include that this also affects tourists that take photos with people in that they do not know and then upload them to websites like flickr and facebook.

        • Nicole 01/03/2011 at 1:46 pm #

          Yes it does. Welcome to the ECHR. One must asses the risk of uploading and hope that the subject doesn’t notice. If you are simply uploading a photograph or footage which accidentally features other people, that will probably not be a gross invasion of their privacy. But uploading footage of a particular person and holding that person up to universal ridicule and/or displaying them committing offences will.

          The greater the risk of the person seeing him or herself on the internet, posted by you, the greater the risk to you of an action in privacy, unless you can demonstrate that it’s in the public interest to do so. But don’t get all self-righteous. What might be of interest to you is not the same as ‘in the public interest’. Naming and shaming is a grey area.

  3. gutlessyogi 25/02/2011 at 10:11 am #

    Photography of anyone in public is not an offense unless you are a terrorist. No one can stop you filming them in public unless you are on private property. Including policemen. If you are causing harassment that may be cause to deal with you but the photography per se is ok. If you are obstructing the highway you can be dealt with, but the photography is not the offense.
    The wiki page is pretty useful http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law

  4. Dave Escandell 25/02/2011 at 10:42 am #

    James – You’re right that helmet cam footage may well show up bad cycling, and Gaz does a great job on his you-tube channel of showing the world that some of us can be silly.

    However, In the UK, breaking the law does not automatically mean that one has also been negligent. We still have a burden as a claimant to prove the other party was at fault (until and unless a presumption of liability law came into effect).

    In respect of the passing up the inside of a left turning vehicle, helmet cam footage could well help as well as hinder – those scenarios will often result in one persons word against the other, usually regarding indication of the left turn. The footage can usually show if any indicator was applied before the pass began.

    Yes, it’s a dangerous place to be, but not always a place where you’re not allowed to be.

  5. Dave Escandell 25/02/2011 at 10:50 am #

    What I would also add is that when people are involved in an incident their perception of what happened, distances etc is not always accurate. A helmet cam can go a long way to showing the lead up to any incident.

    I have often sought accident reconstruction and location reports from ‘experts’ and used these as evidence in court – of course a Defendant can apply to the court for their own expert in any given field and the whole thing can get rather messy and expensive. A 30 second bit of footage could and does avoid all of the things that are seen a negative about our legal system.

  6. Bristol Traffic 25/02/2011 at 11:05 am #

    We have actually checked with the Information Commissioners Office about the status of putting up photographs and videos, after an incident in which an NHS van driver who driven up and blocked a bicycle contraflow threatened us with the police. Sadly for the driver, it is legal

    http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/2010/08/bristol-traffic-and-your-privacy-rights.html
    http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/2010/05/nhs-protecting-people-from-themselves.html

  7. Tommi 25/02/2011 at 11:34 am #

    When assaulted by someone driving a lethal machine, is the burden of proof on the more vulnerable road user to prove beyond reasonable doubt (or however it’s phrased) that the driver was indeed in error, or is it up to the driver to prove they were in fact being considerate and paying due attention to the traffic rather than their phone or gps? If it is the former it seems rather unreasonable, isn’t it the duty of the strong and powerful to protect the more vulnerable?

    Just wondering how accurate my impression that “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you” almost automatically gets you “Oh, ok then” response.

    In any case, how can I best improve the chances that if I reported someone cutting me off, almost flattening me against parked cars, almost driving on to me in roundabout, and so on and so on, it would actually lead to something that would discourage such behaviour – not only for the driver involved, but all other bad drivers as well?

    • Dave Escandell 25/02/2011 at 11:56 am #

      Tommi – If it’s an assault then it’s a criminal law matter and the burden of proof is for the CPS to prove beyond reasonable doubt, rather than on the balance of possibilities. Your description sounds like a presumtion of liability law which we do not have in the UK.

      There is no guarantee that reporting ba driving to the police will result in any action being taken, but a few forces do now encourage reporting. The Met for example have their Roadsafe scheme which i know they do often followup with letters to those poor drivers reported to them.

      Schemes like this in effect encourage helmet cam footage.

      • Tommi 25/02/2011 at 12:17 pm #

        Thanks, I understand the CPS role now, but please excuse me if I say that “followup letters” seem even less of a deterrent.

        I’m still unclear how I can improve my chances in practice. In my brief research I’ve learned even spitting is an assault when done deliberately, so I’d imagine cases where a driver decides “to teach a lesson” would be assaults as well. Which police should always investigate?

        The best thing I can do is to buy a helmet cam? That seems rather… I don’t know, disturbingly misdirected perhaps. Or maybe just short term solution.

        As you mentioned presumption of liability law that is missing, what can I do to get that instated? How can I argue for harder penalties for assaulting vulnerable road users?

        • Dave Escandell 25/02/2011 at 12:26 pm #

          Tommi – unfortunately doing anything as an individual is difficult, and without helmet cam footage of deliberate agreesive driving, which could be an assault, I suspect the police would be unlikely to act.

          As you can see from Mr Porters matter, even with evidence and legal knowledge it’s still very difficult.

          It’s all down to policy, resource, and cost.

          Us cyclists speaking with one very loud voice could raise awareness of what’s going on on our roads (and the helmet cam subject is doing this), but we need assistance from MP’s etc if a serious debate about changes in approach or even the law is to be had.

        • Gaz 25/02/2011 at 1:56 pm #

          How can you argue for harder penalties for assaulting vulnerable road users?

          Start campaigning, thats essentialy what the hundred of camera cyclists do. The only way to get something done, is to prove that it is wrong. We are in an early stage of fighting for our rights, it is a battle that will be a long one, but with more people with us it will be easier!

  8. JimF 25/02/2011 at 11:37 am #

    All,

    You really should read the cycling silk on this:

    http://thecyclingsilk.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2010-01-01T00:00:00Z&updated-max=2011-01-01T00:00:00Z&max-results=50

    Excellent read…

    Cheers,
    Jim

    • Tommi 25/02/2011 at 11:46 am #

      That post and similar others are the reason I want to know how to get police and prosecution take cycling incidents more seriously. My probably flawed impression is that in the rare case there are any consequences to the driver, they’re not much of a deterrent – if they were, surely such dangerous driving wouldn’t be a constant trend?

      • Iain 25/02/2011 at 4:12 pm #

        Interesting blog, thanks for the link. How do we get the Police to take reports of dangerous driving seriously? Well for starters keep reporting incidents and passing them the footage, saying “they won’t do anything” will only lead to them doing nothing. I guess periodic enquiries to the constabulary to see if they’re following up the reports would be sensible, and raising the issues with politicians at various levels shouldn’t do any harm.

        I’m interested in getting a helmet cam myself, as much to share the joys of cycling as catch the motoring numpties in action. One thing that I’ve noticed from the few youtube cyclists I subscribe to is they largely feature scarier moments, from dangerous driving to crazy cycling. If you take a look on youtube while mulling over getting a bike and see all this you’re gonna be put off as it seems every day you’ll come close to an accident. I guess videos of coasting along a quiet country road on a nice sunny day aren’t as exciting for viewers, but that’s why I cycle – it’s fun and it’s just you, your bike and nature, the scary moments make up a tiny percentage of my riding and I hope it’s the same for everyone. If only I had a helmet cam for yesterday’s trip around (well over) Box Hill, some great flowing roads on the loop around back to the climb, might have made a good video, and with insects appearing in their droves, I could still get the youtube viewers in as there were plenty of deaths… [it's the way of the world, cyclist kills [lots of insects] would get more viewers than cyclist enjoys nice country road…)

        The thing that always sticks in my mind from the various “police crash wallop” shows is that the car they stop for some minor matter often turns out to be involved in many other offences, however Police patrols can’t be everywhere, so it’d be nice if reports of dangerous driving from cyclists (or any other source) were added to the ANPR database as a by-note. (eg, no insurance, tax, oh and there’s 4 videos showing this vehicle driving dangerously)

        From memory, in the USA/Canada motorists who have a forward facing camera in their vehicle get cheaper insurance (you’ve probably seen the footage of a truck crashing through the central reservation and narrowly missing someone a few months back)

        Sorry if I’m heading away from the topic, oh, and as for using a camera, well I’ve been stopped & searched under the terrorism act in the past for taking some video of the London – Brighton commercial vehicle run! (I was safely on the pavement, away from the road and clearly visible…) i didn’t ask if they did the same to the gang of stills snappers just up the road…

  9. Dave Escandell 25/02/2011 at 12:02 pm #

    olli – If the cyclist passes on the left before any indicator is applied they will of course be in a better position to have to accept either no fault or less than 50/50.

    As a practitioner in this area if I was approached by a client without helmet cam footage who had been knocked off of their bike while passing on the left then, dependant on the vehicles, traffic and locus, i’d be looking at a split liability case from the outset.

    That same client with helmet cam footage could result in me pursuing on a 100% basis in their favour, all being well.

    This shows the importance of instructing a solicitor who works day in and day out with cyclists.

  10. MartinN 28/02/2011 at 12:49 pm #

    This is an interesting thread and one which raises all sorts of legal issues. As a partner in a law firm working on cycle accidents, we are seeing a huge increase in smart phone media being used as evidence.

    Mobile phones are filming or photographing events literally moments after an accident with witnesses or the injured parties themselves taking the initiative.

    With the helmet cam however you are potentially getting access to live footage of the event itself and there is no better evidence one can supply.

    One wonders though whether there would be a legal challenge at some point on the basis of privacy laws and human rights being infringed if every cyclist had the capcity to film their surroundings everyday. It has hallmarks of the Google Street View saga from last year.

    I firmly believe that in 10 years every new vehicle will have a cam fitted to the front and rear (God forbid it would point inside the vehicle!) which will aid policing and traffic safety.

    Times are indeed changing and from a safety perspective I think these camera’s are a smashing idea.

  11. gutlessyogi 28/02/2011 at 1:34 pm #

    you could easily install tracking software like mytracks on the phone and then in any accident the two tracks of the parties involved would be used to resolve many cases of fault without infringing privacy by filming things. people would object to carrying such software so maybe it would have to be built into the vehicle.

    • Gaz 01/03/2011 at 1:23 pm #

      A few cyclists, my self included, use GPS devices so we can track our stats etc.. I can use this to prove my location and speed at any point along my journey. And being clever i can even overlay the information onto a video ;)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s7LaakeQxU

  12. Nicole 28/02/2011 at 2:44 pm #

    I was recently a witness to a vicious and unprovoked assault on a cyclist who was smacked in the mouth by a pedestrian who was jay-walking on the Cycle Superhighway on Southwark Bridge. By the time the police arrived the man had moved on and none of the witnesses could get a shot of his face on their phones. It came down to identification evidence and at the ID parade a few weeks later, none of us could identify the man and the case wasn’t proceeded with.

    As a barrister, formerly specialising in criminal law, I know how the system works and wasn’t expecting anything more but the victim was most upset. Between the assault and the date of the ID parade, he’d bought himself a helmet cam. In this instance, the police who attended the scene were less than useless and It would most definitely have led to the conviction of his assailant had he had a helmet cam running at the time.

    But we must distinguish between civil matters where one pursues a financial claim against a another road user who has been the cause of damage to your cycle or personal injury to yourself and a criminal prosecution for assault, criminal damage or specific driving offences. A helmet cam could assist the police in bringing criminal prosecutions which would otherwise fail because of lack of real evidence whilst a civil claim is easier to pursue against an insured road user based on your evidence alone.

    If you are going to use a helmet cam, better get the rules of the road down because if you are seen to be cycling in a manner which is dangerous, reckless or breaking the law, nothing will assist you. Running red lights, undertaking and weaving in and out of traffic are things that we all do to get to where we’re going a little quicker than we might otherwise do, but they aren’t neccesarily legal.

    • Dave Escandell 01/03/2011 at 9:30 am #

      Nicole, While red light jumping is illegal, undertaking or weaving in and out of traffic (lane splitting) is not always illegal.

      The problem is twofold with these acts

      a) Almost all motorists and even traffic cops think that they are illegal at the time.
      b) Just because it’s not illegal, doesn’t mean that in any given situation it’s the right thing to do – ie it could be negligent.

      So of course, cycling with a helmet cam swings both ways. Privacy issues aside, one may well be opening themselves up to incriminaltion as welll as the critcal voice of the internet forums and blogs.

      The Road Traffic Act 1988 says:

      “A failure on the part of a person to observe any provision of The Highway Code shall not in itself render that person to criminal proceedings of any kind, but any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings.”

  13. Iain 01/03/2011 at 8:47 am #

    Just a thought, is putting videos of driver’s errors up in the public domain counter productive? On one youtube channel comments suggested the uploader was seeking confrontation to get a good video. Videos can be kept hidden from the public, but accessable via direct linking, so a link could be passed to the police. Gaz545′s Silly Cyclist videos are educational highlighting things we shouldn’t do but can the same be said for footage of close overtakes etc? On saying that, the horrific incident in Brazil seems to have becme world news because it was posted on youtube…

    I noticed this on the BBC site, a community speedwatch where details of motorists speeding through a village are passed to the police – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12600187

    • Gaz 01/03/2011 at 1:28 pm #

      It depends what we want to achive from uploading videos.
      Those of us that upload regularly and have several hundred videos, show that we are clearly having a constant issue with other traffic on the roads.
      I get comments from many people, some of them cyclists. Saying that i’m looking for trouble etc.. But just because i ride in a different way (a way which is safe and taught by bikeability) doesn’t mean i’m looking for trouble. If i can avoid an altercation with another vehicle, i will.

  14. John Doe 08/03/2011 at 10:30 pm #

    In most EU countries except for the UK, if there is a collision between a motor vehicle and a bike, the driver will be assumed at fault unless proven otherwise. I believe the thinking is a bit along the lines of “they drive more dangerous vehicles so bear a bigger responsibility”.

    When driving in Denmark, when turning you always gotta look to see if there a cyclists coming behind you on the inside cycle lanes. If there are, you have to wait until they’ve passed before you turn. If the cyclists are on the road, I think the same thing applies, but I’m not sure. I believe the thinking here is “don’t cut off a vulnerable cyclist” and “if you suddenly started to blink then turned 0.5 seconds later, a cyclist on a fast road bike will hit you, so this is no good, wait for the cyclists to pass”.

  15. Jaggyra 21/03/2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Is is perfectly legal to undertake on the left of a car when the traffic to the right is moving more slowly.

    When in traffic and a lane to the right is moving slower it is fine to undertabke.
    – this is from the higway code – not word for word (I am a biker as well as a cyclist).

    If you get knocked over by a left turning vehicle it is the vehicle driver’s responsibility.

    I usually find a good whack against the side of the vehicle brings my presence to the awareness of a left turning driver who has not been using their mirrors.

    Remember as a driver it is your responsibility to have totoal situational awareness – meaning that at any point during a journey you need to know what is in-front, behind, to the left and to the right of you.

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