We have all thought about it at some point, whether it’s for proof of what was said during an argument or to just record a meeting or conversation, but is recording conversations actually legal?
When it comes to discreetly recording conversations, calls or even filming someone, the law in the UK varies between individuals and businesses and it’s important to understand the distinctions before you attempt it.
Nowadays, the range of technology at our disposal means it is easy to record conversations without the other participant’s knowledge – but does that mean it’s ethical, and can it be admitted as evidence in court?
Is it illegal to record a conversation in secret?
Recording a conversation in secret is not a criminal offence and is not prohibited. As long as the recording is for personal use you don’t need to obtain consent or let the other person know.
Things change if the matter is addressed with a claim for damages or if the recordings have been shared without the consent of the participants. Even worse, if the recording is sold to third parties or released in public without the consent of the participants then this could be considered a criminal offence.
Journalists often record conversations in secret that they then publish without facing any legal problems. That is because they make sure to either obtain consent or argue that the recordings are in the public’s interest.
Can a private recording be submitted as evidence in court?
A private recording can be submitted as evidence, but with some conditions:
- A recording may be relied on in evidence if the court gives permission
- An application for permission should be made on form C2
- The recording should be made available to other parties before any hearing to consider its admissibility.
Covert recordings of children should rarely, if ever, be admitted as evidence, according to section 13(4) of the Children and Families Act 2014.
Is it illegal for businesses to record conversations?
Here is where the law gets stricter, as there are many laws in the UK to stop businesses from recording conversations. Under the Telecommunications Regulations 2000, companies can only record calls without telling you if the recording is used for monitoring or keeping a record of communications for:
- establishing the existence of facts
- ascertain compliance with regulatory or self-regulatory practices or procedures
- to demonstrate the standards which are achieved or ought to be achieved by persons using the system in the course of their duties
- in the interests of national security, or for preventing or detecting crime
Read all the legally justified reasons here.
Any recordings on hold by a business must be relevant to that business and only used by that business. Lastly, all individuals must informed that their conversations are being recorded and all businesses that store personal information have to be registered with the Data Protection Commissioner.
Recording at work
Sometimes employers like to take an audio recording of a meeting, finding it more efficient rather than someone taking hand-written notes of key points. If this is your preference, we would advise you to always obtain the employee’s consent before recording.