4 December 2023

New CCTV laws aim to preserve evidence of violent or sexual assaults at licensed venues

| Claire Fenwicke
Start the conversation
Eliza Wilson

Eliza Wilson’s story led to the creation of this proposed law around security camera footage at licenced venues. Photo: Supplied.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault.

Blanket security camera requirements for bars and clubs are on the way in an attempt to deter violent behaviour, drink spiking and sexual assaults in Canberra.

The Liquor Amendment Bill 2023 will require venue operators to retain security camera footage for 30 days, not only to make patrons feel safer but also to assist investigations and the court process should a crime occur.

The reform was spurred by Eliza Wilson’s experience, whose sexual assault investigation had to be dropped because the nightclub where she was attacked by a stranger in 2021 didn’t keep the footage.

“About nine days after the incident, the police went to Cube Nightclub in person [to get the footage] but were told it had been deleted or taped over,” she said.

“I was pretty devastated as it meant there wasn’t much the police could then investigate … the person who assaulted me was never found or identified.”

Ms Wilson took it upon herself to research the law around security camera requirements for bars and nightclubs. She found they were determined either under a venue’s risk-assessment management plan (RAMP) or through a security camera condition imposed on a venue’s licence.

“To me, that didn’t seem right … I had the assumption that if something bad happened, the place would have the footage,” she said.

“It was such a horrible experience to know my case was thwarted by a lack of footage.”

The former licensee of Cube Nightclub was pursued by the Fair Trading Commissioner in ACAT for failing to keep the CCTV footage in accordance with its RAMP. The licensee was ultimately reprimanded and fined $7000.

READ ALSO ‘Brewed to Succeed’ pilot training program to raise the bar of Canberra’s brewing industry

Ms Wilson had meetings with Business and Better Regulation Minister Tara Cheyne and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury to close the gap in the law, which helped result in the creation of this bill.

Mr Rattenbury introduced the proposed law to the Legislative Assembly, which he said was about standardising requirements for security cameras for certain classes of liquor licence, removing ambiguity and providing certainty to the liquor industry and the public.

“[Upon consultation] it was evident that security camera requirements for bars and nightclubs were not applied consistently,” he said.

“These changes are [also] aimed at deterring violent behaviour in bars and nightclubs and ensuring that if this behaviour does occur, that it is easier for police to investigate the incidents and help ensure justice for victims.

“People enjoying Canberra’s local entertainment scene need to be able to do so confidently.”

The security cameras would have to be fitted and operated on licenced premises and any other land under the control of the licensee in the nearby vicinity.

The new legislation will require that security cameras in licenced venues be clearly visible, with a sign at each entrance to let patrons know they’ll be recorded.

This would apply to all liquor licences issued at any time in Canberra.

The footage must be kept for a minimum of 30 days but deleted after 90 days in consideration of privacy requirements.

“[This approach] will ensure that evidence is available to police when needed, which will result in more thorough investigations of violent incidents in licenced venues,” Mr Rattenbury said.

READ ALSO What are all these roadside cameras doing? And can they help you if you have a prang?

Ms Wilson said it had meant “so much” that she had been listened to by the government and that this policy would be created as a result.

“They took on board the problem and tried to find a solution because I think it’s a situation you don’t expect to be in,” she said.

“I hope [this law] will help prevent and provide some accountability for those who decide to target those in places like bars and nightclubs, where one should be able to have fun with their friends without fear.

“Most importantly, I hope this change means no one will have to go through an experience similar to mine.”

If passed, this change would become enforceable law within three months of being notified.

Ultimately, Ms Wilson said this law was just another step in keeping women safe when in public.

“The big thing that needs to change is the attitudes and the ways, in general, women are treated in our society,” she said.

“We need to stop assaults from happening in the first place.”

If this story has brought up issues for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC) is available every day between 7 am and 11 pm on 6247 2525.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.