FACTSHEET

Detention Monitoring Tool  Second edition

Video recording
in police custody

Addressing risk factors to prevent torture and ill-treatment
‘The findings during the 2006 visit suggest that audio-video recording in the interrogation rooms of Garda
stations may have been a significant contributing factor to reducing the amount of ill-treatment alleged
by persons detained.’
Report of the visit of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to Ireland, 2006

1.	Definition and context
In the past decade there has been an unprecedented
growth in the use of closed-circuit television (CCTV)
monitoring systems. Most CCTV is used in public areas
with the intended objective of deterring crime and providing
security to the public, but CCTV is also increasingly used
in places of deprivation of liberty. This Factsheet focuses
on the use of CCTV in places under the authority of the
police – whether police stations or police vehicles – where
the deployment of CCTV has been observed in a significant
number of countries. It also addresses the issue of videorecording of police interrogations, which differs from CCTV
monitoring both in its purpose and in the manner in which it
is commonly used.
Despite the limitations in scope, it should be stressed
that the majority of issues raised in this paper are also
relevant for other custodial settings, notably prisons.
Video-recording (and possibly audio-recording) can
be used with different objectives which revolve around
deterrence, protection, security and accountability.
Given their different objectives, it is useful to distinguish
between the recording of police interrogations and the
use of CCTV as a general monitoring system.
The main purposes of recording police interrogations are:

•	 to prevent torture and other ill-treatment during
questioning, as well as to provide protection

•	 to police officials against false allegations (deterrence
and protection);

•	 to secure evidence for legal proceedings
(accountability).

The main purposes of using CCTV in a police station or
police vehicle are:

•	 to ensure the overall monitoring of what takes place
on the premises (security and protection);

•	 to prevent suicides, self-harm and incidents of
violence (deterrence and protection);

•	 to prevent torture and other ill-treatment, as well as
to provide protection to police officials against false
allegations (deterrence and protection).

In some contexts, CCTV may be used to compensate
for a shortage of staff, even though this may not be
acknowledged. Overreliance on CCTV may also increase
the risk of dehumanising places of detention.
There are pros and cons to the use of CCTV monitoring
in places under the authority of law enforcement
agencies, but the recording of police interrogations
is widely recognised to be an important safeguard
against torture and other ill-treatment. Various cases
of ill-treatment by the police have been revealed by
video-recording and resulted in the investigation and
prosecution of the perpetrators.1
CCTV never provides a full record of police conduct from
the moment of arrest to the release or transfer to another
facility. As stated by the Subcommittee on Prevention of
Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment (SPT), ‘[m]ost of the alleged acts of police
brutality reported to the delegation during its visit to the
State party appear to have occurred in the street or in police
vans during transportation of detainees to police facilities’.2
As the transfer of detainees is a moment of particular risk,

1.	 See, for example, ‘Moment a policeman lost his temper… and his career: CCTV catches officer using ‘pain restraint’ to calm 15-year-old who refused
to do as he was told’, Daily Mail (UK), 10 October 2012. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2215608/PC-Stephen-Hudson-sparedjail-CCTV-captures-using-pain-restraint-boy-15.html#ixzz2iYBDayIq <accessed 23 October 2013>
2.	 Report on the visit of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) to Mexico,
CAT/OP/ MEX/1, 31 May 2010, para. 141.

Penal Reform International | Video recording in police custody: Addressing risk factors to prevent torture and ill-treatment	

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