Security footage used against taxi drivers

By Rosie Manins

A video camera inside a taxi cab. Photo / Getty Images
A video camera inside a taxi cab. Photo / Getty Images

Taxi drivers are using security camera footage against each other, resulting in at least one Dunedin operator being fined by police.

The driver was seen by a rival taxi operator over-loading a vehicle and was reported to police, who obtained the operator's own incriminating footage and used it to prosecute.

The move has prompted the New Zealand Taxi Federation to challenge the notion drivers are required to supply security camera footage if it is to be used as evidence against them.

Dunedin taxi owners and operators were united yesterday in the view security cameras were for the protection of drivers and passengers, not for prosecution.

They supported the federation's stance that operators had the right to refuse police or New Zealand Transport Agency requests for footage which could be incriminating.

United Taxis owner and operator Bill Overton said it was pathetic some drivers went out of their way to dob in others from rival firms.

"At the end of the day, we've all got to work together. It's hard out there at the moment," he said.

Mr Overton happily supplied footage to police if a wanted person had used a company taxi, as was the case recently.

But footage should not be used against drivers, he said.

"They are for the drivers' protection, not prosecution."

Mr Overton said it was not common for footage to be requested.

Taxi federation executive member and Otago representative Murray Alcock, of Dunedin Taxis, said in certain situations "every assistance" should be given to police.

He shared the view, however, that footage from taxi security cameras was intended to be used in the protection of drivers and passengers only.

"They are not to make the job of police easier to prosecute taxi drivers. That was not the intent of the legislation," he said.

The federation has asked for a policy document to be written, to give guidance to the NZTA and police in respect of requesting footage.

Federation executive director Tim Reddish said footage should be accessed when drivers or passengers were attacked, taxis were damaged or fares evaded.

He was quoted in the federation's monthly publication Taxi, saying it was "unsound" for drivers to initiate footage requests against rivals.

"Such action will only encourage misuse of cameras by drivers to avoid detection if the evidence gained is to be used against them. The inevitable consequence could be footage not being available when really needed, such as an assault or murder," Mr Reddish said.

Police are reportedly seeking legal advice about the issue.

- Otago Daily Times

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