A CRIME victim who created a website showing CCTV images of criminals caught in the act has been ordered to take them down or face a €100,000 fine or jail term.
IT lecturer Robert Waters, from Killiney, south Dublin, said he was "gobsmacked" when he got a letter from the office of the Data Protection Commissioner last week ordering him to remove CCTV images he took of burglars breaking into his home and other footage showing criminals committing crimes.
The middle-aged father-of-three set up his website crimecctv.com in a bid to prevent similar crimes after a four-man crew broke into his home in December and ransacked it, making off with jewellery and other items, including his children's piggy banks.
He posted CCTV images of the criminals wearing gloves, baseball caps and masks over their faces, who can be seen climbing over the wall of his house before breaking into his home through a kitchen window.
The cameras, which he had recently installed at his home himself, showed them going from room to room in "military precision" as they ransacked the house looking for valuables before fleeing within three or four minutes.
"It was like a tornado ripping through the inside of my house," he said.
He decided to set up his website to warn other homeowners, and encouraged other victims of crime to post their own images of criminals in the act to help catch them.
But within a couple of hours of ringing Joe Duffy on RTE Radio One's 'Liveline' show to publicise his website, Mr Waters got an email from the Data Protection Commissioner warning him that he is breaking the law by posting the images unless he has the prior consent of the criminals.
It reads: "We note the noble intentions of the site to assist in the identification of criminals who were captured on film engaged in criminal acts. This office views a photograph or image of an individual as personal data."
It warns that a "data controller" can only process someone's personal data with their consent under the Data Protection Acts.
It adds there is no exemption "for the purpose of identifying potential criminals" other than a website run by gardai.
Mr Waters was then advised that he could be prosecuted under the Data Protection Acts if he continued to post the images and face a jail term or maximum fine of €100,000.
"I've had more sleepless nights over the Data Protection Commissioner than I have had over the burglary," he said.
Officials from the Data Protection Commissioner could not be reached for comment yesterday.