A COLCHESTER councillor raised fears about being recorded in taxis...by joking about using racist language in private.

Patricia Moore made the gaffe at a meeting of Colchester Council’s licensing committee when a plan to make CCTV compulsory in taxis was discussed.

The council is reviewing its taxi licensing policy and is considering introducing the cameras alongside mandatory training for drivers.

The plans have gone out for consultation and taxi firms have put forward their views, with the changes likely to be implemented at the start of next year.

Conservative Ms Moore, who sits on the committee, said: “I am concerned with the notion that if someone is using their car for private purposes it will be recorded.

“While it wouldn’t be released, once it is recorded what is the safeguard? I would hate it if I was driving with my husband and I thought that everything I said was being recorded.

“I mean, it’s often quite racist I would imagine – all sorts of things that could be taken amiss.

“If you’re in the privacy of your own company, with your own partner you should be free to say what you like.

“If this is being recorded, even if its not going to be released there is the feeling the whole time that somewhere it is on record.

“We have to get around this, where the privacy of two people using their car as a private vehicle is not on record somewhere.

“We know perfectly well most stuff is not secure.

“There must be some way to safeguard the privacy as well as protecting the public.”

Answering her concerns, Jon Ruder, the council’s licensing manager, said: “Once you are private hire or a hackney carriage, it is not a private vehicle, it is a public vehicle from then on.

“As such it doesn’t fall within that privacy issue.

“That’s not to say I am not concerned about safeguards and as such that’s one of the things I’m working on.

“The whole point of this is not to spy on anyone it is to make sure the people in that vehicle are safe.

“It won’t be installed until we are satisfied it has met those criteria in regards to data protection.”

Speaking following the meeting, Mrs Moore, who represents Mersea and Pyfleet, said her comment was made in jest and did not reflect her views.

She said: “I regret saying it but it was meant to be humorous.

“I think people are allowed to talk about things amongst themselves.

“It was said as an example of the sort of things couples might say to each other and often, the language of couples is a form of shorthand not really understood outside the relationship.

“Free speech doesn’t seem to exist anymore. If we can’t have free speech then what are we coming to?”