Saturday, October 29, 2005

Admissibility of video surveillance evidence

The use of video surveillance has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, prompted mostly by new privacy laws such as PIPEDA and the western provinces' PIPAs. To insurance lawyers, the most important question is what impact do these laws have on the admissibility of video surveillance evidence.

The only published court decision on this point, Ferenczy v. MCI Medical Clinics, 2004 CanLII 12555 (ON S.C.), may be interpreted to hold that a violation of PIPEDA does not render video evidence inadmissible (but it could be much more clear):

"[35] For all of the foregoing reasons I conclude the evidence here in question was not collected, recorded, used or disclosed in contravention of the Act. However, as I indicated earlier in these reasons, the evidence is in any event relevant and its probative value exceeds its prejudicial effect. Its admission into evidence would not render the trial unfair and it is, in my view, admissible at trial in any event at trial."

Johannes Schenk recently wrote about a BC arbitration decision in which the arbitrator decided that a violation of that province's Personal Information Protection Act would render the resultant evidence inadmissible. From paragraph 58 of IN THE MATTER OF an Expedited Arbitration Between EBCO Metal Finishing Ltd. and International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers, Shopmens' Local 712, [2004] B.C.C.A.A.A. No. 260:

... The PIPA is clearly intended to apply to the employment relationship. The authority of the legislation would not be given effect were an employer to breach its provisions and be permitted to rely on the unlawfully obtained evidence anyway. For an arbitrator in British Columbia to admit the evidence in such a case would amount to error of law and abdication of jurisdiction.

Aribral decisions have little precedential value, particularly outside the particular province, but this highlights that this issue has not entirely been put to rest.

No comments: